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

along-the-way-mlsgregg-com

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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That Speaking Thing I Did

along-the-way-mlsgregg-com

Gentle Reader,

Never open your mouth at a retreat.

This past spring I was able to attend my church’s district women’s retreat. (I am a member of the Church of the Nazarene. A district is just a group of congregations in a particular geographic area, overseen by a superintendent. If you’re interested in what that looks like, here’s a map). I got to stay with friends in a beautiful bunkhouse up in the mountains, surrounded by trees and quiet, with a lake just a few hundred yards away. The speaker’s messages moved me to ponder the Lord and my relationship with Him, the music was deep and soulful and did I mention the quiet? How I needed the time away.

There were also workshops. One of them focused on Bible study and small groups.

That’s my jam.

In my “this chick is far too intense about this” way, I shared how important Bible study is and how, if God has gifted you to serve Him in that way, then that’s exactly what you should do, no matter if you lead a group of 3 or your group is so big you have to break it down into several groups. Two of the district leaders present encouraged me and affirmed my calling, which was incredible. One of them even told me that she thought I should speak at “The Mix,” the district discipleship conference in October.

I pretty much laughed at that.

Never thought it would happen.

Because I’m not a speaker.

Then I stopped being a Resident Assistant at the shelter and moved over to the Chaplaincy Team. Suddenly speaking was expected. Now, of course I’m used to leading a small group. I know how to guide a conversation and keep discussion flowing. But just me? Up front, alone, talking? With people looking at me?

Not my jam.

Just after becoming a chaplain, I received an email. Would I speak at “The Mix?” Would I do two sessions on Bible study, the “why” and the “how” of it?

Wait, what?

God, I think, delights in shoving us outside of our comfort zones, because we have no choice but to rely on Him. I knew immediately that I was supposed to accept the invitation. Definitely flying without a net.

Shortly after that, the pastor who heads the Chaplaincy Team asked me if I would like to teach. I’d been there…maybe four times at that point. This was just before I had surgery, so I asked if it could be a combination of sermon/lesson/testimony/whatever. He was cool with that. I showed up at the shelter an hour before I was to speak, pacing the room, praying. “Um, yeah, Jesus? I don’t know what I’m doing. Would you please just really show up today? Make sure the focus is on You, not me.”

When we seek to glorify Him, God’s answer is always “yes.” My words weren’t polished or amazing or up there with “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” But the Holy Spirit moved and He was strong and the prayers afterward were powerful and something really began to unwind in me that day.

Still, as of 8:00 a.m. on Friday, September 30, I wasn’t sure if I was going to show up for “The Mix” the next morning.

As I got ready for the day, I listened to this and the line about David running at Goliath hit me with all the force of the stone from that sling. David didn’t kill the giant because David was so cool. David killed the giant because God was there, with him, enabling to do what he had been tasked with doing.

Okay.

I heard that.

Yet my heart continued to pound. My palms continued to sweat. I felt like running away. I even asked my mom if she wanted to read what I had written (I am definitely NOT an off-the-cuff speaker, for sure) as we pulled into the parking lot of the church where “The Mix” was held. She just smiled at me.

I was supposed to speak in the afternoon, but of course the schedule changed. Up first. Back-to-back sessions. I don’t mind telling you that sweat trickled down the back of my neck. (That could have been due to the ungodly temperature of the room, but I doubt it).

The person who had asked me to speak opened the session in prayer.

Then…me.

For a second I thought I might have a heart attack and drop dead.

As soon as I opened my mouth, a strange, indescribable peace descended. I may never be asked to speak at anything ever again, but those two hours on that Saturday morning – that’s exactly where I was supposed to be. The Lord filled me with assurance. My voice didn’t crack. I didn’t cry. I was able to make eye contact with each person there.

Only God can do that. Only He can take a person who can’t do the thing and give her all that she needs to do the thing. Only He can empower that way. Only He can provide the necessary boldness, confidence and love for the hearers required to share a message that was, at points, hard. It was no fluffy, feel-good sermon I had. It was, for all intents and purposes, a call to action.

I doubt that I’ll be setting up a speaking tour anytime soon, but next time, if there is a next time, I won’t be quite so afraid. Or maybe I will be. Doesn’t matter. It’s all about God, anyway.

May I remember that.

May you remember that.

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There is no video or audio of my sessions. If you are interested, you can read the text of Session 1 and Session 2.