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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What I Want

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Hello, there. You may have noticed my silence last week. I won’t lie – it was good to be away from the laptop. Much as I enjoy writing, I get tired of the screen and the keys. But we’ve talked about my love/hate relationship with technology before, so no need to cover old ground. Besides, that’s really not the point today.

Today is about getting back on the right path.

Over the last couple of months I’ve had more than one person ask, “When are you going to write a book?” Normally I would brush such an inquiry aside; I dislike talking about such things because I never have a satisfactory answer. But it’s hard not to take notice when people who don’t know each other poke and prod at the same spot. Then the 31 Days Challenge came – and my series was a success. People responded. They enjoyed what I wrote.

I don’t know how I feel about people noticing my words and wanting more.

Writers are a strange lot. We are compelled to dribble the ink across the page, but most of us are flat-out petrified of others reading the finished product. That’s why blogging is such a great thing. It’s good writing practice and it also helps in getting used to the idea that there is an audience out there. An audience that somehow connects with you through those letters, jots and tittles.

So, on the one hand, it’s encouraging to know that the years plugging away in this little corner begin to produce a harvest. On the other, one or two nasty comments are a whole lot easier to deal with than an honest-to-goodness bad review from someone who matters. Or at least matters in the writing world.

The question remains: When am I going to write a book?

The answer: I’m working on one.

It began in early summer. The big picture came fully-formed. I knew exactly how to start, how to finish and where to go in between. I have chapter titles. I have a document just for notes and ideas. I put an app on my phone just for scribbling little things that come to me at random moments. The first, rough run-through is almost halfway finished.

You think I’d be excited.

I’m not.

I ran away from this project. I deliberately turned away from what I know to be God’s will for me in this season.

There goes any of you thinking that I’ve got it all together.

When we throw our hands up and tell God, “No,” there are always consequences. For me it’s been weeks of discontentment and spiritual “blahness.” Oh, I’ve kept on doing things that I should do. Bible study, church attendance, prayer. But there’s been a block. God knew what it was. I knew what it was. He waited for me to acknowledge it. I tried not to.

Because this project, this little book of mine, is not likely to be well-received.

That’s the other thing I’ve heard more than once lately. “You are never going to be a popular author.” I know what that means. If it’s God’s will that one day this book sits on a shelf in a store and people buy it, a good portion of them won’t respond favorably to what they read. If I could just stay in the funny lane or shift gears into conventional “women’s writing…” But I can’t. That significantly ups the scary factor.

God being God, He decided that this little detente wasn’t going to continue. He pressed on me. Kept bringing it up. We had a moment. Rather literally a come to Jesus meeting. I never win when that happens. (Well, I do, because He’s always good and right and there’s nothing but winning when we submit to Him). In His graciousness, He condescended to hash some things out with me. There was forgiveness and renewal, as there blessedly always is.

This weekend I turned on the computer and called up the book. I didn’t bother going over what I’d already written. That will come later. I started where I left off, all the way back in July.

And it was so, so good.

There was flow. There was logic. I remembered the thesis and how to connect each chapter. I knew right away that this is it. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.

God being God, He knew that the fear would set in once more. He knew that I would lose that sense of rightness as soon as I shut it down and walked away. When cares like making dinner and figuring out what to take to a church chili cook-off took precedence in my mind. I’m shortsighted like that.

I crawled into bed early that night, aching all over. (No, not some divine punishment. Just my body being it’s weird self). I reached for a book on my nightstand, but stopped short when the Holy Spirit very clearly said, “Ezekiel Thirty-Three.” Not audibly. Not with a burning bush. Clear as a bell nevertheless. And utterly, completely random. He’s interesting like that. I read:

God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people. Tell them, ‘If I bring war on this land and the people take one of their citizens and make him their watchman, and if the watchman sees war coming and blows the trumpet, warning the people, then if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet and ignores it and war comes and takes him off, it’s his own fault. He heard the alarm, he ignored it—it’s his own fault. If he had listened, he would have saved his life.

“‘But if the watchman sees war coming and doesn’t blow the trumpet, warning the people, and war comes and takes anyone off, I’ll hold the watchman responsible for the bloodshed of any unwarned sinner.’

“You, son of man, are the watchman. I’ve made you a watchman for Israel. The minute you hear a message from me, warn them. If I say to the wicked, ‘Wicked man, wicked woman, you’re on the fast track to death!’ and you don’t speak up and warn the wicked to change their ways, the wicked will die unwarned in their sins and I’ll hold you responsible for their bloodshed. But if you warn the wicked to change their ways and they don’t do it, they’ll die in their sins well-warned and at least you will have saved your own life.” – vs. 1-9 (MSG)

Be chill. I’m not claiming to be either a prophet or a watchman. I’m not predicting the apocalypse. I do know exactly what those verses mean. From the lips of my King to my ear. It’s something we all need to remember.

The Lord commands us to obey Him. It’s both that simple and that hard. (Thanks, Adam and Eve). He tells us to put aside all fear, all distraction, and do what He says. How other people respond – that’s on them. The only thing on us, on me, is to follow where He leads. In my experience, more often than not His leading is decidedly against the current. Against trends and fads. Against accepted norms.

If you’re anything like me and that scares the crud out of you, be encouraged today. God isn’t asking you to save anyone. (Or to control them). He’s not putting the weight of the world on your shoulders. He gives you one assignment at a time, an assignment that only you can complete. A task ordained before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 2:10). He’s not requiring you to swim upstream on your own, either. He is with you every moment, giving you grace, courage and wisdom – even when you don’t have sense to ask for it.

In the end, whatever pain that arises from the strain is absolutely worth it. I would rather see a smile on the face of my Lord and know that I did all that I could to obey Him than have the accolades of a world gone to you-know-where in a you-know-what. He’s given me a job to do (just let that blow your mind; God gives us jobs to do) and I want to be able to say that I did it. Even if there’s a howl and a backlash. Even if the waves crash and beat against me.

A life completely turned over to Him.

That’s what I want.

My journey to faith. (15)

Five Minute Friday: Yes

Along the WAy @ mlsgregg.com (1)

Gentle Reader,

I love my bunch of writers. I love how we’re different and yet so similar. I love how we agree to trade cilantro for bacon. I love that we’re funny. And serious. I love that we span all interests, decades and walks of life.

Kate.

My people.

We say: yes.

Go.

One of my greatest fears descended upon me last weekend.

And I lived to tell the tale.

Barely.

(Okay, not barely).

My friend and I went over to a neighboring city on Saturday to see another friend perform in a play. The outing was all planned  – park here, walk there, a little theater, a little dinner. No boys allowed. She graciously drove us since I assume that whatever direction I’m facing is North (sad, but true) and can’t find my way out of a paper bag. Everything went swimmingly. She pulled into a parking garage and tucked the car into a nice, out-of-the-way spot. Merrily chatting away, we headed over to the elevators and punched the “down” button.

We got stuck in there.

For 75 hours (5 minutes).

It was disgusting and terrible. There is something so profoundly awful about being stuck. I want options. I want to be able to leave whenever I darn well feel like it. So I’ve never liked elevators. Or bridges. Or airplanes. Or that field trip the teacher took us on when I was in fourth grade, the one where we toured a silver mine.

Yeah.

All kidding aside, I went into panic mode approximately 4 seconds after my friend and I realized that we would not be exiting as scheduled. We looked at each other, then at the doors. Words like, “what” and “seriously” slipped from our mouths. She punched the service button or whatever it is, the one that lets you talk to the person with the power to send someone to save you.

Some kind of conversation took place between my friend and the magical man. I just called into the intercom, “Please hurry!”

Then I gripped the rail, the brass one that’s bolted to all elevator walls the world over, and said, “I’m freaking out.”

My friend, bless her, patted me on the arm and told me a funny story about her daughter. She deals with anxiety, too, but managed to keep it together long enough to distract me. I’ll never be able to thank her enough for that.

Some popping and creaking and wondering if we were going to die later, the smallest of cracks appeared between the doors and we could just make out the shape of out rescuer. I yelled, “Get us out of here!” His response? “Give me a minute!”

Nice.

With no buzz or fanfare, the doors opened and we were met with the blank expression and navy-blue uniform of our skinny, bespectacled, possibly teen-aged savior. He waved us out. We said thanks. I probably should have hugged him. It probably would have gone on too long and I would have creeped him out.

We laughed about it for the rest of the day. We joked that the play had better be good, after all we’d gone through just to get there. When the last notes had faded, the bows made, the clapping finished, the artisan pizza reduced to crumbs, the sweating glasses drained of cucumber water and beer – it was time to go back.

She talked me into it. Talked me into getting back on that thing. Said I could punch her if we got stuck again.

I would have laid aside every one of my pacifist convictions and done so.

But it was fine. We were fine.

Nearly a week later, I mull. I stew. I fret. I get upset thinking about what could have happened. What might yet happen if I ever set foot in an elevator again (which is debatable). I conjure up frightening scenarios. My heart races and the sweat beads on my forehead.

How stupid.

While I will continue to use the stairs whenever possible, I realize that this fear of elevators could keep me from experiencing life. Maybe already has. Not just elevators. Fear of so many things. Stepping aside. Staying behind. Melting into the background.

Saying the timid “no” instead of the courageous “yes.”

I can’t take a trip to the East Coast next year without flying. (Not in a reasonable amount of time, anyway). I can’t tour the buildings and see the views without elevators. I can’t drive around my own town without bridges.

Sometimes the fears come. Sometimes what we dread happens.

Somehow you live and you just keep going.

And I see: What makes a woman – what really shapes her into the best version of herself – is not the times when she falls down. It’s not when she cries or feels afraid.

It’s when she says “yes” and dares.

It’s when she gets back up.

And if she comes up swinging, so much the better.

Stop.

Yep, longer than five minutes.

My journey to faith. (15)

Five Minute Friday: Try

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I had hoped this post would be funny, or at least snarky, because that’s the kind of mood I’m in, but it took an introspective turn. Such is the nature of writing I suppose. The words express something beyond the surface.

Kate asks us to: try.

Go.

If at first you don’t succeed, throw something.

That’s always been my motto.

When I was five and my parents were trying to teach me how to tie my shoes, they had this little wood block threaded through with laces. Over and over again they would show me how to knot and loop and twist. Over and over again, I would fail. It wasn’t until my mom told me that I’d always have to live close her to so that she could come over and tie my shoes every morning and I flew into a rage that I accomplished the awful task. (Funnily enough, I live just around the corner from my parents).

A lot of things come easy to me. The stuff that doesn’t makes me angry. If I can’t catch on to a concept quickly, I usually abandon it. (Hence my family referring to me as “barely domesticated”).

I’m not much of a try-er.

Gliding ever-more deeply into the third decade of life, I wonder: What have I missed?

Pride and fear lock arms and keep me hemmed into a comfortable space. Oh, it’s wide. The view is nice. But there’s a lot out there, beyond the fence, that I’ve never experienced. Like ice skating. Who gets to be in her 30s without having ice skated? Yeah, yeah, those pesky health problems play a part, too. But still. There’s a lot I keep myself back from. So many…pieces, longings, kept shut tight.

Maybe it’s time to try.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)