You’ll Need to Escape

This will seem like a lighthearted post about hobbies, but it’s actually about survival.

It’s only in hindsight that I recognize the unexpected things that kept me sane during the tough parts of our foster care/adoption process, and what I see now is that when things get tough, I pick up a random hobby. It’s never a conscious decision. I suspect it’s God. But there’s a definite pattern where periodically, some random thing will catch my attention and give me an alternative world to dive into.

Why am I telling you this? Because if (WHEN!) you become a foster parent and/or adopt, you will have NO TIME for hobbies, and you certainly won’t have the energy… but you will need them desperately. So I’m giving you permission, now, to dive into ridiculous things when they catch your eye. This will feel like you’re giving up, admitting failure, and turning your back on all your responsibilities. But what you’ll really be doing is giving your heart, body & mind some room to reset, so you can think creatively again.

Lest you be tempted to feel embarrassed by the distractions that catch your eye — BEHOLD some of the strange worlds I’ve inhabited since we began this journey:

One summer I did nothing for three months but make beaded jewelry. I had my own tools. The ladies at Michaels knew me by name. I went to bed at night strategizing multi-strand necklaces with sea green matte crystal beads as a unifying theme.

This was phenomenally  unproductive. I was not good at it, so most of what I made was really terrible. But as I planned and beaded, I wasn’t thinking about death or loss or miscarriages, or how betrayed I felt by God. So in that way, those hours of shopping, stringing, learning and vacuuming (beads were EVERYWHERE) were well spent.

To give you an idea of how deep I was: My second book came out in the middle of this season, and the main reason I remember it is because I made a necklace to wear the launch party. I was in so much pain at that time, I hardly remember anything. But making necklaces – even ugly ones – gave me a tangible thing to focus on when I wasn’t sure life was worth the effort. And I say, if your will to live can be resurrected by $25 worth of beads and a 40% off coupon? That’s a good investment!

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This past holiday season, I read 42 works of apocalyptic fiction. I learned all the acronyms (The End Of The World As We Know ItSh*t Hits The Fan). I discovered what paracord is and wondered Where WOULD we get water if we lost power for an extended period of time? I bought a water filter. I considered installing solar on our roof. It was bananas. And so much fun. This is embarrassing, but I LOVED these books. I felt like a whole alternate universe opened up for me to escape into, and I jumped right in.

Both Steve & I LOVED One Second AfterOne Year After , and The Final Day by William Forstchen – they were intense and well written, and I’m so glad our reading coincided with the release of the last book in the series.  I was obsessed with Elle Casey’s YA Apocalypsis series about a gifted girl who befriends a young neighbor and joins an Indian tribe after all the adults are wiped from the planet.  And #2 Cherub is waiting along with me for the final installment of the Pulse series by L.R. Burked, which is also YA.

I read a few other books by well known authors, but mostly, I read dozens of fast-paced self published books that lacked some finesse but made up for it with passion. (And yes, when you eagerly hit “Buy Now” on a book with the subtitle, A Novel of Societal Collapse, you’re ready for the holidays to be over!)  One series was set in southern Maine, with a Dad trying to get to his kids trapped at Boston College; it was cool to read a book set in places I know so well.

A side benefit was how these books helped me understand the mindset of super-conservative America, a world I’m not all that familiar with. It humanized that part of our country, and gave me much-needed perspective on the unfolding political developments. My one regret is that I didn’t do the free trial for Kindle Unlimited (Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial) It would have saved me about $200. Still, the combined entertainment & distraction value? Worth every penny.

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Right now, I’m not under any real stress, except that it’s March in New England. All of us have dry skin and weird breakouts, so I’ve been going down the rabbit hole of making lotions, lip balm, sugar scrubs & cleaning products.

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Mostly, I’ve made gloppy messes. But there’s one hand cream concoction everyone in our family uses, so that’s cool. #2 Cherub has asked for a strawberry flavored lip balm, so I’ll give that a try today, and I’m looking for a way to make hair conditioner. If any of this comes out well, I’ll share the details. (And if it comes out poorly, expect some funny pics)

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One word of caution about all this: Whatever your hobby is? Do not try to become an expert at it. By all means, do not try to make it into a business – When something becomes your job it stops being your escape.  Just enjoy the season while it lasts and accept the gift of distractionI have three wearable necklaces, a bunch of good titles on my Kindle, and one non-gloppy hand cream that fixed my grim cuticle situation. And I’m still in it to win it with our Cherubs, and that’s a big deal. Sometimes you’ve gotta retreat in order to advance. I give you permission to be okay with that!

Keep Calm and Embarrassing Hobby on :)

Blizzard Prep

We’re expecting a ridiculous snowstorm tomorrow, so all of my plans for today were put on hold while I crammed three days of getting stuff done out in the world into one. I hope to post a full blog tomorrow (in between shoveling & chasing THIS DOG as she gallops through the snow). For now I thought I’d share three books you might like if you’re enjoying our adoption story. You know, in case you’re snowed in tomorrow, too :)

Reading is how I process things, how I figure them out. When some new subject catches my attention, the first thing I do is go get every memoir I can find (along with a novel or three) so I can see how other people handled the challenges. Here are three different perspectives on foster care & strangers-as-family that earned a permanent place on my bookshelf:

This book is just so good. I reviewed it here and could not rave about it enough. I love stories where the grim parts aren’t sugar coated and the happy ending feels earned.

If you help foster kids in any way, this book will reassure you that everything counts and you are making a huge difference, probably way more than you realize.

 

A YA novel about a girl in foster care – it sounds sad, but really isn’t.  #2 Cherub told me about this one – she’s read everything in the genre – and this did not disappoint.

I love how it reminded me that kids in foster care are KIDS, with the same array of everyday life questions, dreams, ambitions, and goals as other kids.

 


This one’s a heartbreaker, but in the best way. It’s not about foster care. It’s the memoir of a young woman who moves to a new city and meets a woman from Somalia, along with her five daughters, on a bus.  Her descriptions of the woman’s struggles to learn American culture and survive are compelling.

 

Stay warm! And if you ARE someplace warm, please send pictures! :)

Celebrating The Good Moments #1

EARLY Sunday morning, I saw a post from my friend Stephanie Elliot  on Facebook that inspired me to ditch the whole second half of my sermon to make room to share the story of how she handled years of rejection and disappointment in her writing career.

Her book comes out today :) 

I know Steph in real life (if you’re a longtime blog reader, you may remember this road trip from Chicago to Wisconsin in a tornado with my friends Manic Mom & Swishy? Manic Mom = Steph!) She overcame SO MANY NO’s to get to this very big YES in her writing career. She inspires me with her perseverance. She understood that if anyone was getting their books published, then it was possible for her, too. And here she is!  I’ll be waiting out on my porch all day for my copy of  Sad Perfect to arrive. It’s YA, a hardcover book for just over $10, and has GREAT early reviews. Looking to escape into a good story with a personal connection? You should click over and grab a copy, too. Congratulations, Steph! xoxo

On a related note…Lent begins tomorrow!

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In He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, I devote a whole chapter to my first experience of Lent and how pivotal it was early in my faith. There have been some rocky years since then, but this year, our church is reclaiming this observation as an opportunity to take a chance on God once again. If you don’t have plans for Lent, join us!

Everything you need is on the Greenhouse Mission Site:

The Study Guide tells you a bit more about my experiences with Lent, as well as how we’re approaching it this year through three traditional practices: Bible Study, Prayer & Fasting. You can do these on your own, or with friends. (I do better with the buddy system to keep me afloat, but it works with just you & Jesus, too.) Each week we’ll post a Weekly Bible Guide  with links to the daily reading, along with some thoughts on the passage and ideas for prayer. There will also be sermons you can listen to, book recommendations, and – God willing – some cool testimonies of what God is doing in our lives. I hope you’ll join us from wherever you are (and I mean that both geographically and spiritually :) )  Let me know if you’re joining in, and how it’s going. It’s good to cheer each other on and believe together.

(Looking for today’s Adoption Answer? It’s here, in a second post!)

 

Books!

I’ve had a growing stack of books on my desk for weeks now, waiting for a chunk of time to I could share them with you. There’s something here for pretty much everyone looking for a summer read:

How to Survive A Shipwreck by Jonathan Martin.  The author digs deep and shares with beauty and candor about what he learned after (in his words) “steering my own ship onto the rocks,” failing in his marriage and leaving the church he’d founded. The book has an unusual, almost mysterious style. Scenes are sparse, and there are no details at all about what happened. We’re left to wonder about the specifics of the shipwreck, as we can only see the aftermath. This bothered me at first, but then I saw an interview where the author said that the book was not a memoir, and that helped me to stop looking for the narrative arc and simply soak in the wisdom from what the author learned. I deeply appreciate this book and recommend it to anyone who has watched helplessly as their boat came apart…or been complicit in taking an axe to the timbers.

In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch. I discovered Allison’s writing years ago because we have the same agent. Since then, I have enjoyed every one of her six novels, and this  might be my favorite to date. In the midst of a compelling plot, she captures so much of the angst of getting older and balancing who you are now with who you used to be. It reminded me of a longtime favorite, Plan B by Jonathan Tropper – high praise.

Onward by Russell Moore. I never imagined I’d find this much inspiration in a book by leader of the Southern Baptist Convention. I don’t even mean that in a snarky way; only that were you to draw a Venn diagram with Southern Baptists & Vineyarders, you’d pretty much just see JESUS in the center overlap. But as it turns out, that’s enough.  This book is filled with sharp thinking, wise observations, and a keen perspective on the intersection between faith & culture. I’ve read a lot of books about navigating that space – this might be the most insightful. (Bonus: I discovered Moore’s work via his interview on the Phil Fischer podcast.)

Heart Made Whole by Christa Black. This was a miss for me – not enough clear story, too many heart metaphors. The author’s heart is an open door, a house with many rooms, a dark place waiting to be explored, a locked room she’s trying to open… I love a good image, but it’s a tool to help you say something, not a substitute for  figuring out what you’re trying to say. I also found it a little strange that she talks to her heart. It wasn’t for me, but several others have liked it, so check it out if you’re interested. (Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.)

The Pastor by Eugene Peterson. You know all those memes on “Adulting”? Eugene Peterson should be our guide. His story is poetic and yet really clear as he shares stories about the people and situations that shaped his thinking about how to be a husband, father, pastor and friend. Lots of wisdom here.

Book Report

In the midst of a CRAZY couple of months, I’ve read some good books. Some offered wisdom, others stirred up my imagination for how things might really work, and a few just let me escape for a few hours. Here’s a rundown in case you’re looking for something to read as we head into summer:

GRIT: THE POWER OF PASSION AND PERSEVERANCE by Angela Duckworth. I expected to like this one because I’m hearing about it everywhere, but I didn’t expect it to prompt an immediate change to my daily routine. There’s a lot to like in these pages, but my personal takeaway was about the power of a certain type of practice – where you have goals that are a bit beyond your capacity, keep track of how you practice each day, and look for outside help to get better.  Highly recommend.

WAKING THE DEAD: THE GLORY OF A HEART FULLY ALIVE by John Eldredge. This was a re-read for me, prompted by a friend who shared how a retreat led by Eldredge helped her through a really thorny patch in her life. I hadn’t realized how deadened my heart had become from so many years of loss and stress. This book helped me recognize the dead-ness and believe for resurrection. Such powerful stuff here. I’m going back through all the sections I underlined and asking God to heal those broken places. If you could use some help getting back to abundant life, this is a good one to read.

THE VERITAS CONFLICT: A NOVEL by Shanti Feldhahn.  And imaginative look at the spiritual battle over Harvard. A fast-moving plot held my interest, and I was intrigued by this attempt to show how angels and demons intersect with our everyday human lives. Fun to read, especially if you have a connection to Cambridge. Now that our church meets in Kendall Square, I’d love to see a similar story set at MIT.

DISRUPTED: MY MISADVENTURES IN THE STARTUP BUBBLE by Dan Lyons. Dang, this guy is funny. This is a grim, hilariously sarcastic look at the tech bubble from a former Newsweek writer who worked at Hubspot. It’s billed as “old guy works in hot young startup,” but the book goes way beyond that basic premise.  If you’re connected to tech, this is worth a look.

SPIRITUAL SOBRIETY: STUMBLING BACK TO FAITH WHEN GOOD RELIGION GOES BAD by Elizabeth Esther.  I expected this to be a memoir, but it’s more of a 12 step program for people recovering from cult-like or abusive religious situations. It’s not a light read, but I think it will be a helpful, hopeful resource for many people as Esther shares what she’s learned about moving forward.

And Here are a couple of books I’m looking forward to:

IN TWENTY YEARS: A NOVEL by Allison Winn Scotch.  I love her books.

HOW TO SURVIVE A SHIPWRECK: HELP IS ON THE WAY AND LOVE IS ALREADY HERE by Jonathan Martin. I don’t know much about this guy but I’ve heard good things.

Running: A Love Story

I was saving this post for a bit later this month, but since Amazon has jumped the launch cover-140x210date and you can have this book TODAY if you order immediately, I’m going to stop waiting and tell you about my friend Jen’s new book, Running: A Love Story: 10 years, 5 marathons, and 1 life-changing sport.

First, let me tell you about Jen. I “met” her years ago when the blogosphere was a fun social place to find people who shared your humor & interests. Jen, a freelance journalist, wrote these great, funny, totally honest blogs about the Jersey Shore (she even wrote a guide for spending time there). Because I’d spent most of my 20s in Philly, I had Shore memories…but mostly I just liked her take on life. That’s continued over the years, and even though we’ve never met in person, I feel like I “know” her because she’s shared so much of her journey in building her career, loving her adorable dog, becoming a home owner, and devoting more and more time to running.

My favorite thing about Jen is that she’s so straightforward. She says what she wants to say, with no hidden agenda or angle. She hates overly girly running gear, loves New Jersey, and freely shares what she’s learned about making a living as a freelance writer. In a word, she’s cool.

I learned a few years back that I can’t “review” books written by my friends (even friends I’ve never met in person), especially if they’re memoir. But I can recommend them, and this one I recommend.

Jen brings every bit of her blunt candor and sharp humor to this story. But she also adds something else that really touched me: she’s not afraid to want something in this book, and she shows herself working through what it takes to have the courage to go after it. She’s not above it all, pretending to be perfect. She’s deep in the mix of life. Those are the stories I love to read, and they inspire me as a writer, and a person trying to live in a way that amounts to something.

No matter what your personal relationship is with running (mine is something like, Running: A Friend I Should Probably Call…) I think you’ll relate to Jen and be entertained & encouraged by her book. Click over and order Running: A Love Story.

Then as you’re waiting for your copt to be delivered, watch this video. It’s hilarious. (My favorite is Jen’s face when she’s wearing the “Not Running Sucks” t-shirt.)


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/157890683″>Running: A Love Story by Jen. A Miller</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/rightsideupproductions”>Right Side Up Productions</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Three Books That Surprised Me

It’s been a reading bonanza here this week. I took a chance on three books recommended by different sources, not sure I’d be that into them. How much fun is it when you’re wrong? These books were helpful, entertaining, and made me feel good about God, people & life. Prepare to be surprised :)

First, Finding Church: What If There Really Is Something More? by Wayne Jacobsen.  Jacobsen posits an end to the institutional church. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. There’s no way for me to do this wise book justice, but it’s filled with thought-provoking reality checks about how much closer we get to God through relationships rather than organizations and programs.

This dovetails exactly with how Steve & I have been thinking about the overlap between adoption and church planting. For example, research shows that children placed in foster homes learn to respond to people – looking to different relationships for help, wisdom, guidance, etc. – whereas children placed in group homes or other institutionalized settings learn to respond to programs and systems, which is far less effective. This is equally true about faith. The evidence is convincing that we all do better when learning and growth come through relationships rather than programs.

Jacobsen reminded me of the power of deep, Jesus-focused relationships: friendships that happen naturally and grow and develop over time around this one unifying pursuit. Living this way can be chaotic and messy, but is ultimately redemptive because God knows how to sort out our messes.

I’m not convinced that we need to completely abolish meeting weekly as a church, or during the week in groups to pray, consider the Bible, etc. (particularly here in greater Boston – if something isn’t a recurring event, it takes three weeks to find a time to get together with someone). But I love the way he prioritizes relationships over programs. I’d recommend this book to anyone who feels like church has become a second job because you’re there 20+ hours a week doing programs and classes.

Next, Angel In Aisle 3: The True Story of a Mysterious Vagrant, A Convicted Bank Executive, and the Unlikely Friendship That Saved Both Their Lives by Kevin West.  This is a feel-good read. West was under indictment for bank fraud and awaiting trial when he met a seemingly homeless man named Don who wandered into the small grocery store where he was working. Don brought heavy doses of scripture-based encouragement, and a wisdom that surprised West. The story is VERY black and white in terms of West admitting his wrongdoing and taking responsibility for his actions – it’s clearly writing for a conservative Christian audience that might not be very forgiving. Which is sad, in a way, because this is a story about grace showering down over these two men and their families, and grace can handle whatever we throw at it. This is a book to grab if you’re looking for a pick-me-up.

And finally, the biggest surprise of the bunch, Strong and Kind: And Other Important Character Traits Your Child Needs to Succeed by Korie Robertson. I reviewed one other Duck Dynasty based book and it was terrible. Trite and simplistic and “we’re all fine here.”  This one had way more to offer. It’s a parenting advice book, and I got some good tips here that I put into action right away (I used one – a way to nudge a fibbing child toward honesty – approximately 30 seconds after reading it.) Robertson  has a strong voice, a good use of humor, and thankfully doesn’t delve too heavily into the whole redneck thing that feels like such a facade, especially for her. My favorite part of the book is Robertson’s willingness to parent her children, rather than trying to be their friend. She and her husband (whose essays pop up in various chapters) seem very secure in their role as the adults. That’s a refreshing change, especially as an adoptive parent. My kids don’t need me to fret about their self-esteem or help them identify their emotions. My kids need me to model a functional life where things happen in an orderly way and it’s safe to be a kid because the parents are being grown ups.  The Robertsons just announced that they’re adopting another foster child (this will be their third adoption) so I suspect some of this has influenced their parenting style. I recommend this book for Moms looking for reassurance that you can be loving, tough, and have clear expectations for your childrens’ character.

Disclosure: I received copies of Angel in Aisle 3 and Strong & Kind from their publishers in exchange for an honest review. I purchased my copy of Finding Church. 

Unexpected and fantastic read

UnknownI started Midnight Jesus with a bit of trepidation – I guess I was expecting one of those justice books that suggests that everyone should be just like the author.

Wow, is this not that.

Author Jamie Blaine is a musician, church psychotherapist, and assistant manager of a roller rink. He describes each of these parts of his life with a balance you rarely find, and it’s fantastic to watch how he wrestles with practical needs (like making a living) with the opportunities God presents (being the midnight psych ward crisis response guy, managing the roller rink). He somehow sews it together into a coherent whole, while remaining cognizant of what he’s missing out on by living such an unorthodox life.

But the heart of this book are the people Blaine meets – most of whom are at rock bottom. I’m not sure how to justice to how great his writing is here, how he shows respect for people without sugarcoating the depths of their despair. He doesn’t have answers. Let me repeat that: He doesn’t have answers. He shows, rather than tells how the story of Jesus intersects with the story of us, and it’s incredible.

It took me a few chapters to get into the book, because the tone and writing style (not to mention Blaine’s general approach to life) are pretty different. But this doesn’t seem like affect – one gets the sense that this is just who he is, rather than something he’s adopted to stand out in some way.If you’re looking for a good read, I highly recommend Midnight Jesus.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: The Heart Led Leader

51CBF7QnENL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_I am such a fan of this book. It’s shot through with inspiring stories and great points, and stands head & shoulders about other books I’ve read with similar themes. I appreciate how the author defines “leading by the heart” in terms of deep caring, sacrifice, and wise encouragement (rather than the traditional model of scattershot praise and fluffy esteem-building).  He somehow balances a focus on bottom-line results with big-picture concepts like passion and legacy. It’s such good stuff.

One of my favorite chapters was on leading with Passion. Towards the end, he points out that the Greek word for passion means “to suffer.” “When something matters so much to you that you’re willing to suffer to see it succeed, that’s passion. It might come with pain and sacrifice, and it almost always comes with hard work, but it never comes without joy.” I appreciate how candidly he connects these two things, reminding us that suffering and joy aren’t mutually exclusive.

I found so much here to help & inspire me, especially in my newest leadership role as an adoptive parent.  I teared up as I read an anecdote about what the author’s first boss responded after he whiffed a big presentation: The boss sent him back out the next day with an unexpected chance to try again, and said, “It’s important that we make mistakes. That’s how we learn and grow. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.”

I want to post those words in bold font on the wall in every room in my house.

This is a great read for anyone who leads anyone. (By which I mean, pretty much everyone.)

Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

On Being Gangster

“I believe that enjoying your work with all your heart is the only truly subversive position left to take as a creative person these days. It’s such a gangster move, because hardly anybody ever dares to speak of creative enjoyment aloud, for fear of not being taken seriously as an artist. So be the weirdo who dares to enjoy.” -Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

It seems like life this week is all about me being busted. Yesterday it was The Cherubs & my lack of grammar knowledge. This morning it’s the 101 ways I’ve forgotten to be (in the words of Elizabeth Gilbert) gangster.

It’s not so much a fear of not being taken seriously as an artist that gets me, because I’ve never  felt like an artist to begin with. I’m too…straightforward, perhaps. I file my taxes and show up places on time, and I have (in the words of Hermione Granger) the emotional range of a teaspoon. So the title “artist” has never fit.

But two other fears police my gangsterness, wrecking my ability to enjoy work: Fear of not being taken seriously as an author, and fear of not making life with Jesus look as…well, gangster as it is. Those run deep. They’ve grown an extravagant root system down into my psyche, keeping me numb & paralyzed.

The author fear insists that I have to at least pretend to be slaving away at some work in progress at all times. Even if it’s not going well. Even if I hate every word I write, even if my paragraphs don’t make sense. (Not in an overly self-critical way, but in an honest, “Wow, this is absolute nonsense” way that we artists like to pretend isn’t possible but totally is.)  This fear insists that if I don’t finish my long-suffering novel, or my stagnant book on praying for a husband, EVERYONE WILL HATE ME, AND I WILL HAVE FAILED AT LIFE. (Really, it says this. As if anyone will even care, let alone work up the energy to be pissed off about it.) And because I believe this fear time and time again, about once every other week I dutifully open those pitiful documents, toss in a few more words, then I give up and close my laptop, feeling like even more of a failure.

It’s awesome.

The fear of not being a good Public Christian is more insidious, because it has me coming and going. It suggests that I must produce multitudinous amounts of prose on living the excellent,  abundant (sometimes excruciating, but let’s not dwell too long on that whole “death before new life” thing) Jesus-ey existence, while distancing myself from the entirety of American Christian Culture and the multitudinous amounts of prose it produces that make people want to gag. The Bible says to “be in them not of them,” and too often for me this means striving to be among Christians (I mean, they’re my people) but really not at all like them. Nope. Way cooler, more laid back, not one little bit judgmental or frustrating, not wearing homemade dresses. (At least this last part is easy.)

All of this inner turmoil has been my normal for so long now, I can’t remember ever not feeling this way.

Then this weekend, Elizabeth Gilbert skipped through my world with her new book. I picked it up because I like her writing (I mean, she held my attention through a 600 page novel about a  COLLECTING MOSS. If that’s not talent, I don’t know what is). Most writing/creativity books say the same things – work every day, don’t judge your early drafts, persevere. I didn’t expect much new substance, just a pleasant delivery.

I was surprised.

First, let me say that her spiritual perspective is flat-out BANANAGRAMS. She believes that ideas are sentient beings waiting to be embodied, and that they fly around between us, searching for a home. (In my faith we call those things demons, but whatever.) I skimmed those pages.

What blew me out of the water was her her insistence that writing is fun. It’s this awesome thing we GET to do, and so we should do it all the time, with great delight. There should be GLEE. She insists that it’s totally worth it to sacrifice our serious reputations to regain some joy in putting words on the page and creating new worlds. We should write all sorts of silly things: novels and songs and blog posts and essays – whatever floats our boat. Find some other way to pay the bills, she says. I felt like a 10,000 lb. weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I was invited back into the life I lived before I became a Professional Christian Author (and stopped writing books because of the ridiculousness of trying to wrestle myself into such an ill-fitting garment.)

Throughout BIG MAGIC, I kept thinking, Here is a woman who spent YEARS with an imaginary character whose primary passion was collecting moss, just because it was fun. What must it feel like to feel that excited about a project everyone else thinks is insane? (Because I’ll admit, when the advance press about that novel came out, I was sure she’d gone well and truly round the bend.)

But the truth is, I know what that’s like. It’s how I wrote my first book.  And now, all these years later, Elizabeth Gilbert has challenged me to find that gangster place again.