Just Start

Tonight I get to be a part of my first ever, Ask An Author Anything webinar and I am incredibly excited. But not because I like to be on camera. Hair and make-up prep time; camera crews with their bright, unforgiving lights; and little interview-y questions that make you bare your soul, expose your semi-intelligence and half-witted-humor and inevitably lead you to cry- are not my favorite things in the world. All the same, I am excited for this little webinar on writing because there are some things about the writing life that I wish I would have known up front. I needed a big-writing-sister to tell me writing secrets in the same way that I needed an already-been-there-sister to tell me about boys and kissing. 

I hope you will join me tonight (or register to receive the webinar link and watch later!) and feel like you are learning a thing or two from a sister who has walked a tiny bit of the writing road. 

If I had a writing sister (And I sort of did. Her name is Annie Dillard and her handed-down advice came to me through a book called The Writing Life. There was also Anne Lamott and her kissing-wisdom in Bird by Bird. And also a big brother, Robert Benson, who taught me through Dancing on the Head of a Pen) my writing sister would say, "JUST START JENNY." 

And I would petulantly respond, "Where? How? Why? WHY? What do I even write about? What will the book be called and how will I title the chapters? And what happens at the end and is this beginning strong enough?!?"

And I would cry as all baby sisters do.
And my big sister would say again, "JUST. WRITE." 

She would go on to tell me what I now know. Don't worry about the name of the book or the chapter titles. Don't know how it ends? Welcome to authentic living. None of us have the ending figured out yet---write anyways. How to start? Not at the beginning, she would say. That's for sure. Skip the beginning. Heck, skip the first five words of the sentence and start somewhere in the middle if you must--- but start. 

As I sat down to write my first book, The Road to Becoming, I knew the story and I had told it a hundred times from stage, but I had no idea how to start writing it and I realized very quickly that writing it down was vastly different than speaking it. I almost didn't write the book because I didn't know where to start. And I think that can be said for so many things in our lives. How many times have I not done something simply because I wasn't brave enough to stick one foot out over the ledge into the unknown? How many times have I not done something because I wanted the game plan first; the outline; the road-map that took me directly to a victorious finish-line. How many times have I given up before I even started because I convinced myself that if I couldn't even start, there was no way I could conquer this unknown thing in front of me? I could use a big sister telling me to just start in so many areas of my life. 

If you hear one thing from me tonight, it will probably be this: I finished. Me! The girl who never finishes anything! The girl who reluctantly, fearfully starts and usually fizzles out somewhere in-between when it gets hard, monotonous, tedious, ambiguous or complicated. I finished my first book (and am working on my second!) and the only reason I finished is because I finally got brave enough to start. 

I started in the middle. Mid-sentence, as a matter of fact. I didn't know how to properly start a book and quite honestly didn't know how the book would end because the story hadn't played all the way out yet. I started anyways. I didn't know the names of chapters or have the book neatly laid out. I started anyways. I wrote without knowing how long a book should be, how many stories it should contain, or what the word count was. I wrote anyways. I started without the promise of a book deal; I merely started with the knowledge that I wanted Annie to know our story, wanted to my parents to be proud of their deep legacy on our lives and wanted anyone else who read it to know that it was ok to grieve, bury, be lost and then be found again. I started based on that. With as much will power as I could eek out and the constant-hovering-presence of my husband who pushed me along the way, I finally sat down one day and started something I was convinced was way out of my league, but started all the same. 

And it turns out that out of all the mechanics, insider-secrets, story crafting and editorial advice I could have gotten from a big-writing-sister in the beginning, what I really needed was her voice saying "Just start Jenny." 

And maybe you need that voice too. It might be writing a book or starting to train for a marathon or piecing together a work of art or organizing the dream trip or organizing the local food pantry or finally losing weight or putting down the cigarettes or re-connecting with an estranged loved one... and it all feels so big and weighty and monumental and insurmountable... and maybe you just need a big sister like I did.

Someone to look you in the eyes and say, "Forget about the ending. And the beginning for that matter. Don't get lost in the how or the what-if's or the messy middle. Just start. Somewhere. Anywhere! Take one toe and dangle it over the ledge...and inch by inchy inch...get yourself over the ledge into this new thing that won't go away and keeps inviting you to dance."

Just start.

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For more insight into my writing life and a little more big sister advice, please join me for Ask An Author anything. Tonight, Monday May 18th, 8p.m. eastern. 

 

Annie-Isms

Recently, my 6-year-old daughter Annie, has been particularly Annie-ish. And of course, this is worthy of sharing.

Upon realizing Mother's Day was followed by Father's Day, she asked, "When is Children's Day?" "There isn't one," I said.  "Oh yes there is! I will celebrate Annie Day in between Mother's Day and Father's Day and I would like some jumping beans for a gift."

What kind of kid creates their own holiday and only asks for Mexican Jumping Beans?!?

***

Annie has been particularly concerned with making sure my parents "get to know" Ryan's parents. For some reason she is convinced her grandparents don't know one another very well and she has been anxiously trying to arrange get-to-know-you events. Both sets of grandparents flew to Nashville for her birthday party a few weeks ago and we shared several meals, car-rides, late night patio time and other birthday fun together. On more than one occasion Annie pulled me aside, squealed and told me quite seriously that "she thinks they are becoming best friends."  I just don't have the heart to tell her that they knew each other for a total of seven years before SHE EVEN EXISTED. That they were introduced to one another fifteen years ago! I just can't.  At the final bar-b-que, when both sets of grandparents were tucked under jackets and blankets on the back porch, laughing and carrying on, Annie said goodnight and I went inside with her to get her ready for bed. When I closed the bedroom door she squealed with more joy than I have ever heard and said "MOM! They are best friends!!! They are having so much fun together I just can't even tell who is married to who anymore!!!!"

***

In the car pool line. "I've had the worst day ever mom."

"Why baby? What happened?"

"Lauren (not-her-real-name) slapped me across the face at recess."

"What do you mean? Why in the world did she slap you?"

"Because I was dead."

"Why were you dead?"

"Mom- cats die all the time."

Well. That clears it up.

***

In the car pool line again. "Mom this was the worst day ever." Again.

"Why baby? What happened?"  Again.

"Well, Lauren (not-her-real-name) caught Natalie (not-her-real-name) stealing two of my toys from my back-up. She stole them from me Mom! And she put them in her own backpack! Why would she steal from me?"

As we drove home I told Annie about good people who make bad decisions. How some kids- a lot of kids- don't get as much love, attention, toys and affection as she does. How some kids learn to make hurtful decisions from their own parents' and grandparents' examples. How some kids operate out of their lack-of without thinking about the person they might be hurting in return.

"I've never once seen Natalie's parents at school. They might have to work really long hours to take care of their family or maybe they aren't around and she doesn't get the depth of love you get. All of those things might be factors in why she would steal from you. She sees that you get lots of stuff and lots of love and maybe she thinks you won't notice if something comes up missing; that you won't care because you already have more than enough. It doesn't make her actions right, but her actions could very well stem from some of those places inside of her heart and mind."

The next morning Annie disappeared after breakfast. I found her in her playroom packing a bag of games and toys. "Mom, these are for Natalie. Maybe if she feels loved and gets a few presents from me, she won't have to steal anymore."

And that, my friends, is a true Annie-ism. Profound beauty and generosity for the world around her.

As her mom, I so desperately want to wrap her in bubble wrap and protect her from a little girl who steals, and another little girl who slaps and from her own desire to create a national holiday celebrating herself and from the painful moments this life will undoubtedly bring her. But more than that, I want to set her free. Free to let her empathy, grace, beauty and generosity run wild. Free to love others without fear of rejection, fear of being taken-advantage of, fear of not being recognized in return, fear of people not quite like her, fear of giving away too much. I want her to be fearless and free. So I will sit on my hands and not TAKE OUT THE CHILD who slapped her. Sit on my hands and not grab hold of the things she wants to give away. Sit on my hands and not bubble wrap her and keep her safe when everything inside of me wants to. I will not steal those things that are most like God, deeply imbedded within her, from her in an attempt to keep her safe. I will set her free. And in so doing allow the world to be touched by her radical generosity, profound beauty, enduring empathy and whimsical grace.


 

Welcome Home is the Yellow Brick Road

I'll go first.

Once you have resigned yourself to the artist category in life, the road does not magically lay down yellow and lead you straight to the coveted Emerald City. In fact, I would venture to say that once you have resigned yourself to the _________ category in life, that road doesn't immediately (or possibly ever) turn  yellow, bloom flowers and lead you to the mythic green city either.

Most roads aren't that predictable or generous.

They are potholes, detours, weeds and prison crews in bright orange vests picking up trash in the wings.

Today I had one of those days where my career-road felt wobbly, weak and worrisome. It was no sparkly, golden yellow path with poppies and bluebonnets rising to greet me. It was dead-ends and I-give-up's. I will go first and tell you that I have my fair share of these days. And by "fair share" I mean I contemplate never stepping on stage, writing a song or a book ever again- about once a week. I assume this number is a bit disproportionate in comparison to people with "real" jobs. By their very nature, an artist has to wake up each day and assume their painting, sculpting, drawing, music, writing, acting, poetry or other contribution to the world is indeed a contribution and indeed worth pursuing even when there seems to be no discernible road at hand. At the very least, it seems that if I were a nurse, I would know that I was needed in society. Whether I enjoyed or tolerated well my job would not take away from the fact that at the end of the day, my job was necessary in society. An artist doesn't get that satisfaction. An artist just hopes what they are doing is necessary to someone- anyone's- sanity and joy. But it's all one big guessing game.  Madeleine L'Engle says in Walking on Water, that the artist is simply called to faithfully bring forth their art- whether they know it brings someone sanity and joy or not. I would rather bring forth a colonoscopy bag. There is no question whether this is vitally important to the patient.

I stared at my computer a good bit this morning. It was sacred writing time, but I couldn't write. I only kept looking at the blank dates on the calendar. Why weren't more show offers coming in? People want to know if I will do a book tour when the book releases on September 1st. I have no idea. Who books a book tour? Shows are hard these days. I am not "on tour" in any sense of the word and don't wish to be. I did my years of three months on an RV or tour bus at a time... and it is not for me. Not as a momma and a wife and all the other things I hold dear. So these days I travel on weekends. Often with Annie. And always with the same, small tribe of musicians. We go to women's conferences and lead worship. We go to college campuses and churches who open wide the doors to their community. And I tell stories of the many ways I have seen God's faithfulness, his grace, mercy and miraculous provisions in my tatteredy-redemptive-life. I read pages from my book and sing songs, old and new, of hope now and what little I know about Holy. I pray with people, laugh, guide, celebrate, cry and then I come back home. And if I am lucky? I do it all over again the next weekend with new brothers and sisters in a different nook and cranny of the country.

This morning I feared the end of those precious moments spent sharing song and story. Anger is a by-product of fear and I felt myself getting angry. Angry that some churches have become so corporate they have lost their ability to be spontaneous. They are well-oiled machines with no room for outsiders. Angry that I wasn't more social-media driven; a hustler; a mover and shaker and connector. Angry that I hadn't worked harder at promoting myself. How does one even do this? Frustrated that big tours blow through towns now with a slew of artists for only $10! and all other concert options seem ludicrously priced to the average concert goer who assumes a $10 ticket price should be normal. Frustrated that I am still faithfully creating art and still frustrated by the madness of it all!!!!! Seriously?!? Will puberty ever end? Being an artist is like living in the angst of forever puberty.

And these are the things you shouldn't say online because you want to be the "it" person so that the conferences, churches and colleges who are bringing in the "it" people will clearly see that YOU ARE IT!!! But today I felt so not "it."

And the most maddening part of it all is that I don't want to be "it." I just want to keep faithfully bringing forth the music and stories that are deep inside of me. I want to keep telling people that they are becoming and that is ok and God is good at deserts and even better at promised-lands. 

So I told God I was frustrated. I told God I wanted opportunities. Not because I want to be "it" but because all I know to do is keep faithfully putting these stories of beauty and redemption out there. I told God I would absolutely learn to be a nurse and figure out that whole colonoscopy thing if that were a better road. 

Instead He responded, in my soul, with a story. No audible words. Just a vision. A memory. The story of the wealthy man in Luke 14 who prepares a great dinner and invites many to come but is met with excuses for the excessive reasons they could not. The man becomes angry and sends out his helpers and says invite everyone else then! Go the streets! Compel them to come.

"When you are butting your head against the wall, Jenny, and the dinner guests politely decline... maybe you are asking the wrong guests," God whispered deep inside me.

"Well, where do I find the right guests?" I snapped back.

There was no answer.

Moments later I opened up my email. There was a letter from a church of misfits, 12-steppers and broken people wondering if they might have permission to use my song lyrics in a book. A teeny-tiny small church for really broken people? That sounded like the exact kind of people the man in Luke 14 compelled to come to his party. And my kind of people at any rate. I clicked on the church's link to see where they were located. What do you know. Right next to the place I had been banging my head against and being politely declined (or ignored) as I tried to line up shows in the area. I immediately wrote the man back and said, "Yes you can use the lyrics AND I know this is weird, but this is my message and my heart and can I come play these songs and share these stories for your people on this specific date? I promise I don't usually invite myself. But I guess God kind of told me to this time. I don't need money. This is just what I am made to do and I would love to pour into your people, so...." 

He wrote back immediately and said, "Welcome home."

Of course I sobbed on my couch. Who knew "welcome home" could mean so much? But after being politely pushed aside and wondering if the dinner party will ever happen...welcome home feels so welcoming. 

I was so amazed by the response that I wrote another person. And then another. Not the people who had been checking their budgets, checking their calendars, seeing if I was a good fit or if they might be able to get a bigger "it". No, I just went straight to people in cities that I knew loved on others well. A pastor and volunteer firefighter, a teacher, and a tiny-small church full of recovering-everything's. And by the end of the day today I booked three concerts of sorts. And each person that I approached said a whole-hearted, welcome-home, yes. Yes to their couch, their back-yard, their church of broken-beautifuls.

And maybe you are on the not-so-yellow-brick-road feeling the same wobbly, weak and worrisome feelings I have been having. You are inviting people to a banquet who don't seem to care- or might possibly, eventually care if nothing better comes along- and you wonder if maybe, just maybe it might be better for you to do _________ instead. I would challenge you to remember that the colonoscopy guy or gal probably feels the same way from time to time too. But more importantly, I would challenge you to remember Luke 14. Go to the streets. The mom that no one else includes. The co-workers on the fringe. The not-who-you-imagined next door neighbors. The guys or girls on the team who are waiting, hoping to be invited. The small church that can't afford to bring in an artist and may only be able to pay you in sweet-tea and mashed potatoes. Go there. To the places that won't give you any status in the "it" world but with people who are compelled to join you at the dinner table and break bread with you all the same. Forgo the original invitation list. Think bigger. Or smaller. Or out of the box and into a giant circle. Draw broader lines and compel them to join you. They are not mind readers.  You might have to go to the streets and invite them.  You might have to invite yourself. And I know that is scary. I did it holding my breath today- wondering if I might look insane or worse- if they, too, might politely decline. 

But you may be surprised, friend. Because their answer just might be

welcome home

and welcome home IS the yellow-brick-road.

In The Way

We found out yesterday that the Church needed to open its doors to the homeless community during the coming days of extremely cold weather here in Nashville. Thank God for faith communities of every creed that are willing to open up their very houses of worship and transform them into makeshift dorms so the most vulnerable have a safe, warm place to rest their heads.

Annie wanted to help.  She asked Ryan and I at lunch if she could go to the church later that night to help me set up. The idea of a slumber party at church made the child exceedingly giddy, even if she wasn't the one spending the night. Lock-ins are going to totally blow her mind. And then an idea came across her face so sincerely that she blurted out the most beautiful question, "Do they need stuffed animals to snuggle with?" Because when you are almost six-years-old, every occasion calls for a stuffed animal to snuggle with. Especially a cold, lonely night in a new place you've never been to. But before Ryan or I could answer, we realized it was a rhetorical question and she had no intentions of gleaning any answers for us.

"I'll be in charge of stuffed animals!" she said triumphantly; matter-of-factly.

I assumed she would move on by the time we got home. I might even be able to dissuade her from going with me, that way I could actually set up with some degree of quickness and efficiency. I was wrong.

As soon as we got home she went straight to her room, dumped out her entire industrial sized pink bin of stuffed animals and dolls and began to sort. Every other doll she would bring to me with a heavy look of discernment and say, "I don't know? Do you think Raggedy Ann? Because she's a girl, but she could be for boys or girls because she's tough."  Or, "Do you think this GloWorm? Because I bet someone will probably be afraid of the dark." Or, with guilt, "Do you think it's ok if I don't send my lamby, because she reminds me of..."

She carefully, thoughtfully sorted through the dolls and animals trying to determine what a grown man or woman might want to sleep with through her enormous, tender heart and eyes.

And I warned her, repeatedly, that she might not get the dolls back. Ryan and I stood in the kitchen, over hushed voices, he asked what any careful and cautious adult might, "Will she be in the way?"  We both longed to discourage her from what might potentially be a situation where she poured her tender heart out only to be overlooked. We wanted to dissuade her from getting hurt, from being in the way.

We scrounged up every- unfortunately pink- fleece Disney blanket in the house and with the help of my next door neighbor, we managed to round up a trunk full of pillows and blankets. And headed back to the church three hours later.

She taped her sign covered in stickers and XOXO (which she quite cautiously attaches to the end of letters to people she would only actually kiss or hug) to the back wall of the church's makeshift dorm, "FOR SNUGGLING LOVE ANNIE." She laid out her most pretty blanket and set each animal out, carefully, thoughtfully. And then she found me and although a few other kids were there running around, what she really wanted to do was help make beds. She picked out pillows and blankets and helped pull bed sheets through the cracks of the chairs to secure them in place. A job I told her she was uniquely qualified for since she had the smallest fingers and could grab and pull what we could not. 

As I laid in bed last night, I heard Ryan's very practical adult words echoing in my head, "Will she be in the way?" And I began to think of how often we adults miss it because we are too self-conscious, too practical, too worried we might get hurt or- gasp- might be in the way. Of course even as parents of children whom we long to protect, we allow them to "be in the way," because they are childlike and innocent; their actions are cute and sweet; and there is the whole Jesus to the Disciples bit about "No, you idiots, let the little children come to me." So we let children go and set up their dolls and tape their signs to the church wall, "FOR SNUGGLING LOVE ANNIE."  Because who are we to keep the little children from the things of Jesus?

But often, we adults are a totally different story aren't we?

Too many God-fearing, Jesus-loving adults do absolutely nothing beautiful or whimsical or redemptive for the world around them because they live with the voices in their head saying:
What if I am in the way?
What if they don't really need me?
What if I don't have much to offer?
What if I am embarrassed?
What if I the pink Disney blankets I brought aren't good enough? What if I just leave them in the car until I know for sure I won't look like an idiot?
What if I pull out my offering as a last resort?

The questions reek of worry, shame and fear of the opinion of others.
Not radical love.  

Radical acts of love and service can't just emanate from our tender hearted children who are completely unaware that they might be in the way; who are completely unaware of being 'self-conscious' yet. While their acts are beautiful, they can't be expected to suffice as the whole. Loving radically well isn't just child's play. Radical acts of love and service are the stuff of adults who love God and seek to make His kingdom known here and now on earth as it is in heaven.

I woke up this morning reminded that I don't want to live small and safe and practical and fearful and shame-driven and worried I might be in the way. 

I want to be in the way.
I want to be more like Annie.
I want to be embarrassed for bringing too much. Too little. Too ugly. Too girly. Too useless.
Too ________.

If I am guilty, let me be guilty of showing up with not quite the right thing but showing up all the same.

Because while it is endearing to see a child offer their stuffed animals, what is more endearing is to see the mix-match of adults who showed up last night with their comforters, blankets, pillows and linens. Perhaps afraid, self-conscious, or unsure if their old ______ was needed, but who still showed up all the while with the most intimate of belongings. Sheets, blankets, pillows from their very bedrooms, invisible signs, "FOR SNUGGLING LOVE JENNY."

The adults who inspire me the most on this earth are the ones
who are in the way
or perhaps, more accurately
becoming the way
through which the world knows true love.

Asthma + Elephants + A Holy Fight

So this is what yesterday looked like.

I woke up in pain. Bad pain. My chest was so tight and sore I felt like an elephant was sitting on me and I might split wide open, my heart popping straight out of my body. This is normal. Each day I dread the first few breaths I take because I know how bad my chest will hurt. This is normal too. I’ve had this sensation for as long as I can remember and just assumed it was normal. That all people dreaded waking up because the pain of getting the first few puffs of air in their chest caused their eyes to well up with tears too. Then I found out in June that I had asthma.

I was in a meeting when the elephant came to sit on top of me again, squeezing my chest so hard that I immediately broke out in sweat and chills from the pain. By this point I had watched enough Oprah and Ellen to know that thirty-year-olds have heart attacks and chest pain shouldn't be ignored. So I called my doctor and they told me they were not allowed to see me with chest pain, that I needed to go straight to the hospital. So I went to a walk-in clinic instead.

The doctor was incredible. He began the way most doctors do with working mom’s. “Tell me about what kind of stress you are under.” And I get it. I know this is a good, necessary question. But if I were a man, I would have been hooked up to an EKG machine right away. As a female, first, they want to know if you are stressed. I told him I have an amazing therapist, psychiatrist, yoga-class, hiking schedule and prayer life. The magic Zoloft pill has long eradicated the debilitating anxiety I experienced in my 20’s. This was not stress. This was an elephant. Which is the universal code for I think I am having a heart attack.

The EKG was normal. The chest x-ray was normal. The blood work was normal. It was all normal, normal, normal. Except that I couldn’t friggin' breathe. And that’s when my little minute-clinic-doctor said that based on the X-ray’s, I have a very small frame and passageways around my lungs and he couldn’t believe I was a singer. He asked about asthma, pulled out a tubular device and asked me to breathe as hard as I could into it. I tried. He looked at the numbers puzzled. He told me to try again, this time coaching me like I was a track star, “Harder, go, go, go, go, harder!” I finished in a coughing frenzy and thought I might pass out. He said my lung capacity appeared to be about 50-60% lower than what it should be and I was essentially only getting 40% of the air I needed. He sent me to an asthma doctor.

Since that day seven months ago I have been working with doctors to try and figure out how I can breathe better. And the whole process has been maddening. The inhalers make me shaky. Like, hands shaking so bad I can’t pound out words on the computer or hold my mascara tube without dropping it shaky. So they move me from taking normal inhalers to taking rescue inhalers as my normal inhaler. And this does not make me shaky. But it jumpstarts my chest so drastically that the coughing spells take over and Ryan notes I sound like a dying bear. I weigh the options. Do I want to breathe? Shake? Or cough to death? Finding the right medicine has been a nightmare.

And then there are the well meaning people who want me to know that they were cured of every illness in the world when they went gluten-free! sugar-free! meat-free! fill-in-the-blank free! Then others who want to know whether I have used Thieves because Thieves cures everything. And I have used Thieves and I am not cured. Then others who want me to know my body is strong in the Lord! And my body was built to overcome illness without medicine! Then others who swear by Zyflamend or swear by this acupuncturist or this herb whittled down from a tree-of-life at the top of the Himalayas. You get the point. Everyone’s best intentions are to see you made well, without all the pain and struggle in between. And each one of them has a different opinion than the team of doctors I have carefully, thoughtfully chosen for myself. They are sure that their mantras, cures, doctors and homeopathic remedies will fix me better or faster or without all this modern-day medicine hoopla.

And I am tired of the cacophony.
I just want to breathe.

Just a few days without this dang elephant threatening to split my ribs wide open. Just a morning where I don’t have to talk myself into taking my first deep breath and wincing through tears from the pain that follows.

Yesterday the pain hurt worse than it has in years. For three days I’ve been tied up with heat packs and ice packs. I’ve taken Zyflamend, Thieves, epsom salt baths and tried every inhaler the doctors have given me. You name it, I’ve tried it.

So I went to Walgreens to get the new prescription that the doctors swore would work wonders. I was hopeful. Desperate. It rang up for $500. Insurance covered $13.  And I immediately started crying. Poor Walgreens girl. I told her I could not buy it and left the store snotting and tearing over everything in my path. Once home, I wrote my doctor on the online portal to tell her that the miracle meds were too expensive and was there anything else I could try? But then the nurse wrote back and said my doctor was now working at a different location and the doctor currently in the office suggested, if I wasn’t allergic to it, Aleve.

That’s when I really lost it.

Tears and snot and sobs because, Aleve? Seriously?! I’ve got a one-ton animal sitting on my chest and you think Aleve is going to cut it? Are you sure you are an asthma doctor? And of course I’ve taken Aleve. I’ve drained the bottle.

Three emails later, I finally got my real doctor back. She forgot to send in one of the meds, a simple Medrol dose pack to give immediate relief and a new inhaler to try. Ryan went to Walgreens this time. He got the new meds. He also brought home the Fekkai hair products that I never let myself buy but always want. A new bottle of hairspray. Some chocolate. And a Bota Box. Because Medrol and Bota Box go together in his mind. And literally two hours later, I felt like a new person. A person who could breathe without being in horrible pain.

This morning there was no wincing when I took my first breath. No tears before I got out of bed. No dread in the bottom of my stomach. Just a normal morning. The kind of normal I haven’t experienced in way too long. Today has been good.

I share this experience because there are some of you who know what it’s like to live with an illness or sickness that threatens to suck the life out of you, rob you of your joy and make you want to scream at the next person who suggests using Thieves or Aleve. You are not alone. And you are fighting a holy fight. To seek wholeness for the body which God himself created and called good is one of the most honorable battles we can face on this side of heaven. So keep writing the doctors back on their invisible, online portals. Keep insisting that they try a new medicine. Or put you in contact with your original doctor, or send you on to the next person who might be able to help you crack open the mystery of the elephant that you KNOW is not coming from stress.

To seek wholeness for the body which God himself created and called good is one of the most honorable battles we can face this side of heaven.

You, wounded and broken, are not alone. Though your body may fail you, your spirit can soar. So keep fighting. Keep finding the tiny slivers of light and hope. As Margaret Feinberg says, keep fighting back with joy. Cry to the poor Walgreens lady. Eat a bunch of chocolate. Tell your significant other that it is not nice to tell people they sound like dying bears. Then cry a few more tears. Then rally the troops. Pour the medicines out in the bowl and start over. Go through them again. Pray that God will meet you right there in your lostness, pain and frustration. Pray that you might have the patience, grace, stamina, fight, endurance and humor to get through one more step. And then the next. And then the next. Celebrate the mornings with no elephants. Or whatever you have come to call your enemy. Give yourself grace on the mornings that it is there, rearing its head in rare form telling you it controls your life. It does not.

The body is not the sum total of a life. The soul can sing a different tune.

So sing, friend. Sing a different tune when you can. A tune more beautiful than the mysterious thing deep in your bones, blood and body threatening to steal your story. Sing a different tune.

And keep fighting.