Review: On Edge

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (2)

Gentle Reader,

On December 5, 1989, Andrea Petersen suffered a crippling panic attack. Over the next year, she would be in and out of doctor’s offices, attempting to figure out what was wrong. Finally, sitting in the campus health office of her college, she hears the words that will mark her life forever: anxiety disorder.

Of all the books in the world, I figured that I would relate to and appreciate this one.

Weirdly, I didn’t.

Petersen is a medical reporter for the Wall Street Journal, and this shows in her writing. Instead of straightforward memoir, she fills the chapters with an overload of background information about synapses and chemicals and medications, leading to a denseness that was difficult to get through. Having read many books on this topic, I know that there is such a thing as too much information, especially if one is reading these books in an attempt to understand and therefore battle anxiety in a more effective way.

That, perhaps, seems odd. How can there be too much information? In answer, one word: Overload. Knowledge may be power, but overload is crippling.

Petersen should have written two books: one memoir, one technical. Trying to have both forms in one volume results in a disjointed read.

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I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.
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Five Minute Friday: Expect

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (1)

Gentle Reader,

I can’t figure out the world we’re living in. These are surely times that try human souls (thanks, Dickens). Government is a mess, reduced to odd tweets and cringe-worthy memes. Viewers rail against talk-show hosts for being not political enough (or too political) because apparently we decided to just give up reading and wrestling with news ourselves and instead just want someone to stoke the fires of our collective rage. Goodness, is there ever rage. Against Trump. Against Clinton. Against practically every member of Congress.

That foaming and frothing would be enough, but the rage has become personal. Intimate. No longer, it seems, can civility be maintained. Relationships crumble. Strangers shout at each other through the keys. This country is locked in “us vs. them” chaos, only we don’t really know who the “us” or the “them” are.

I didn’t vote for Trump. Made no secret of that. I’m very concerned about what truths lie beneath the surface, truths that begin to bubble up, popping and singeing those close by. Intuition tells me that the firestorm – raging for so long now – has really only just begun. And yet I can’t muster up hatred for those who did tick the box for him. Am I aware that Trump appealed to the misogynistic and xenophobic tendencies running throughout this country during the campaign, and that he continues to do so? Painfully aware. Do I think that those who stubbornly turn a blind eye to the faults of this administration are deep in denial? Yes. Do I think history will look back and see his time in office as one of the greatest missteps the United States of America has ever made? Probably.

But still. I can’t hate people who voted for him. The majority of us, I believe, want the same thing at the end of the day, as Thomas Jefferson so eloquently wrote: life, liberty happiness. We differ sharply on how such goals are achieved, but these are our desires.

I wonder, if we could all just remember that for a second, if we could start putting country and neighbor above party and power, would things take a turn for the better?

Linking up with Kate at the new FMF home. Tonight we:

Go.

I haven’t changed my mind about the nature of humanity. We aren’t basically good. Apart from God, we are capable of good, sure, but our fundamental bent is selfish. World peace isn’t going to suddenly break out. There’s a radical Anabaptist strain to my theology; I believe that it’s highly possible, even probable, that we will only continue a downhill slide, however slow it might be. I suppose I’m just dumbfounded that this election was the thing to expose the darkness. Then again, I know my history well enough to recognize that politics in this country has never been pretty or easy. Perhaps it was inevitable.

The Founding Fathers made backdoor deals. They were hardly paragons of morality. Jackson sent an entire people group into exile and death. Bleeding Kansas. Civil War. Jim Crow. Economic disaster. Riots. Kent State. When I entered first grade, we were at war in the Middle East. Twenty-seven years later, we still are.

I know all of this.

And yet I keep hoping, praying, that somehow, some way, everyone is going to calm down and we can move on. Move forward. Perhaps that is an unreal hope. I don’t know.

I did not expect this…mess. In the back of my mind lived the assumption that cooler heads and steadier hearts would prevail at the end of the day. There’s still time. It could happen.

And so I remain a pessimist trying to see the light in and amongst the clouds.

Even the barest hint would do.

Stop.

I’ve left you on a downbeat, something I’m not fond of doing. I’d much prefer to make you laugh or give you something to think on. But I can’t pretend or say “peace” when there is no peace. This is where we are, in the middle of a swirling storm that shows no signs of abating. A numbness, a sense of disbelief, accompanies the sound of thunder and the crash of waves. How did we get here? How did this happen?

No amount of think pieces can provide an answer. I wonder if those are even in the right questions. Maybe it’s not about how we got here, but what we do now.

Please, if you have a good idea – let me know.

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Photo credit: Nathan Anderson

What’s Goin’ On

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Sometimes the need to write is strong but the desire to tell the story that comes, seemingly unbidden through the fingers, is lacking. Need, but no want.

If I could explain that better, I would. One of those weird writer things, I suppose.

I left this blog just before Christmas, creeping back, unannounced, a few weeks ago. The sabbatical was necessary. Last Fall – I bit off more than I could chew. I got burned out. Still am burned out, in many ways.

With no pretense at a smooth segue, here’s what’s been going on the last four months:

  1. I’m back in therapy. After a five-ish year absence, I have returned to the cozy office and comfortable couch of the wise, godly woman who walked with me through some of the darkest days I’ve ever experienced. Again I can taste the dirt and feel the bruises that come from falling, suddenly, into the ravine. I’m on a low dose of Zoloft, the only antidepressant I can take given my liver problems, which tackles my brain’s habit of flooding itself with “fight or flight” chemicals for no dang good reason. Stops the hands from shaking and the sweat from trickling down my neck so that, with great effort, I can focus on what’s actually bothering me – not something I plan on sharing at this time.
  2. My health is very unsteady. December 2016 was golden. Great. I made it to work every day. Exercised every morning. Few aches and pains. Limited nausea. I got this little taste of what it might be like to feel “normal,” or at least as normal as it would be possible for me to feel. Then, crash. Bang. Boom. Thud. Increased migraines. Liver swelling and all the discomfort that comes with it. Insomnia. Exhaustion. Eczema that won’t go away. Yay.
  3. I have doubted my ability and calling to write. Not looking for you to soothe my ego here. I’ve been doing this for nine years. I failed, miserably, at getting a book traditionally published. A huge part of me wonders if I’m making any difference when there seems to be no progress or measurable impact…
  4. …but then I see all the straight-up bad “teaching” out there. And I feel compelled.
  5. Still, I find myself with big questions. What does God want of me? What is my purpose?
  6. That book nobody wanted? I published it myself. It’s titled The Harm in That: False Gospels, Alternative Medicine and Suffering. (You can click on the image to the right of this post and check it out over on Amazon. No pressure to buy). This book isn’t a long rant against people who are into alternative medicine. I know and love many who are. Disagree with them, but love them. Rather, this book tackles the question, “What does the Bible actually say about medicine, illness and suffering?” Not a medical textbook. Not expert testimony. It is a very broad commentary laced with snippets of my own experience.
  7. In continuing writing, I must come to terms with the fact that I don’t “do it” in a way that is readily embraced by today’s celebrity-obsessed and often-shallow Christian culture. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Church. I love Christians. But how many Amish fiction series do we need? How many books about the Nahum diet? (That doesn’t exist).
  8. Cleaning up my online life. Oh, the things I “liked” and “tweeted” years ago. Embarrassing.
  9. Small group drawing to a close. Normally, I am against groups taking a break for the summer. It’s so easy to fall out of good study habits. This year…did I mention that I’m burned out? We’ve been meeting for two years. I love these people. But I need a nap. A long one.
  10. Church changes. Our pastor left in October. As one who thrives in routine, the resulting shifts have been interesting some days, highly difficult others. Things have smoothed out recently.
  11. Drawing away from social media. I’m all for fun. For memes. For photos. Right now, I simply have a desire to share only what’s worthwhile and participate in conversations that mean something.
  12. Near-paranoia regarding Bible teachers. I am the last person who’s going to claim perfection. I don’t know everything. I want to learn from solid, wise, orthodox, godly people. But, boy, the amount of concerning statements and associations lately… My innate cynicism and suspicion has, to use a culturally favored pair of words, been triggered.
  13. Miscellaneous. Afternoon coffee. Avocados. New study Bible. Snoring dogs who look so handsome after going to the beauty shop. Trying recipes from The Great British Bake-Off.

So, there’s your wide-lens view of this blogger’s life. Still seeking to slay the dragons of anxiety and depression. Still sarcastic. Still longing to know and love the Lord better each day.

Now with 50% less dog fur covering her shirts.

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Photo credit: Beata Ratuszniak

“Distant Lights” Launch Day

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Gentle Reader,

Here it is.

capture

I hardly even know what to write. Publishing a book has long been a dream of mine. And now – it’s real.

First, a hearty “thank you” to the members of the launch team. You have all been so enthusiastic and unflagging in your support. You’ve shared images and quotes. You’ve told your friends about the book. Today you begin to post your reviews. My soul aches with gratitude. Though I often imagined a book cover bearing my name, I never imagined so many willingly coming alongside to promote it. Each of you will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Second, an equally hearty “thank you” to all of you blog readers. You come here week after week. You care about what I have to say. You interact. Many of you have become real, true friends, even across the miles and miles of internetness. Every time you read a post or share it or leave a comment, you reaffirm the gift and calling God has given me. You’re an awesome community.

Distant Lights arose out of both pain and joy. Written between 2009 and 2012, the poems tell my story of deepest depression, wrestled out in the presence of God. For a woman who has been called an “emotional robot,” it’s a highly personal, intimate book. I wouldn’t have chosen to start my publishing career with this collection – but God had other plans, as He so often does.

The poems are not technically precise. When I wrote them, I was not focused on meter and measure or even rhyme. Mastery of this literary form was not my goal, nor is my goal in publishing to become a lauded poet. My hope and prayer is that Distant Lights will encourage those experiencing the dark night of the soul to press on. To reach for the sparkles in the sky. The blackness, the pain, do not disqualify you from receiving the love of God. On the contrary, He is there, holding out His hand.

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