Last week was so incredibly productive. I had to take my laptop and write in my bed, since my office somehow seemed too overwhelming, too formal, too demanding. 

So I wrote in my bed. It was a simple measure I could take to feel safer. I don’t know. Am I alone in this?

It makes me think of Virginia Woolf, of A Room of One’s Own, of how I, at 18, was so idealistic about writing that I wrote not one but two research papers meant to disprove Woolf’s claims, and how, a decade later, I would wonder, Maybe she was right.

Man, writing is hard. I saw this posted on social media today. I felt it.

I’m not complaining. Or I’m trying not to, at least. I have a calling on my life, and I am rising to it. No, my writing life isn’t easy, but it is sacred.

A Better Question

Did I ever share this article with you guys? It’s important.

Instead of asking, “What do I want?” ask, “What is worth struggling for?”

I hope you’ll read this and share your thoughts.

It begins:

Everybody wants what feels good. Everyone wants to live a carefree, happy and easy life, to fall in love and have amazing sex and relationships, to look perfect and make money and be popular and well-respected and admired and a total baller to the point that people part like the Red Sea when you walk into the room.

Everyone would like that—it’s easy to like that.

If I ask you, “What do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything.

A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.

Click here to read the rest.

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The Darkest Days

artwork  in retro style,  woman and cup of teaThere is a little Caribou Coffee in Long Lake, Minnesota, where I sat one morning since I’d arrived too early to my visit to Orono High School. I stared at my steaming hot cocoa and repeated to myself: You are going to hell. 

Swallow that down, I told myself. You are going to hell, and there is nothing you can do to change it. This realization is your eternal reality.

In the car, I’d been listening to “Spirit” by Switchfoot on repeat: I’ve found all that I want, all that I long for, in You.

It was true then. It’s true now. But in those days, it was a truth that I imagined fell on deaf ears. Spirit, come be my joy.  It was the cry of my heart, but I knew I was damned and that joy would be forever inaccessible to me.

I can’t detail exactly how creepy it is become a cardboard person.

To ride the rollercoaster to the deepest depths and then to climb off there.

A reader asked me if I’d ever felt like God wasn’t with me through the storms of my life.  Have I felt that way? Yes, intensely.

But I was wrong.

Praise God I was wrong.

All these years later, God has stormed in, torn off my blindfold, wrapped me in his arms, and repeated truth to me till I came to believe it.

Do I still have moments where I doubt? Yes.

But my anchor holds.

I wrote this to remind myself of the truth– the truth that no disorder or devil can withhold from me because my God is stronger:

anchor manifesto

Is Mental Illness a Spiritual Issue?


The question is complicated; my answer is too.

Yes and no.

As a Christian, I believe that basically everything is a spiritual issue because I believe in a sovereign God. My particular set of beliefs means that I believe that writing is a spiritual practice for me, that the food I eat represents my spiritual discipline, that my obsessive-compulsive disorder has a spiritual purpose (one that was hidden to me for many, many years) of refining me, showing me the beauty of freedom and the glory of grace. Because I am a spiritual person, all things are spiritual to me. There is no way that I can separate my OCD from my experience of Christ because it is so clearly evident to me the way that God has worked in my life through my mental illness, recovery from it, and subsequent advocacy. I would be a liar if I tried to tried to divorce these two items in my own head and heart and speech.

But I also believe that mental illness is an illness like any other. Just as I wouldn’t hyper-spiritualize someone’s fight with cancer or diabetes or even a common cold, so I wouldn’t approach mental illness as anything other than a medical illness. I wouldn’t assume that someone got pneumonia as a direct result of their sin … or that they were spiritually unfit … or that something demonic was going on. I feel the same way about OCD and other anxiety disorders. I feel no shame– spiritual or otherwise– over my OCD, just as I wouldn’t feel ashamed if I were to break a bone. (Granted, it’s taken me a long time to get to this point; a heaping side of shame comes quite standard with your plate of religious scrupulosity!)

So, do I pray about OCD? Yes, of course. But I pray about my headaches too.

I realize that this is a touchy subject for many people, and I hope that I’ve presented my thoughts in a balanced way. Because I believe that so many people would misinterpret my “yes,” I usually bellow out a resounding “no,” but in this post, I wanted to try to delineate my thoughts on each. I’d love to hear your thoughts and continue this conversation, and I hope that you’ll extend grace to me as I try to tiptoe through this minefield!

Related posts:
OCD, ERP, & Christianity
Why I Believe in God
God’s Sovereignty, OCD, the Cross, & His Purposes

Image credit: Unsplash, modified by me






The Magic of the Gospel

I posted something about Harry Potter on my Facebook page recently, and a Christian friend of mine made a comment about how she was against witchcraft, just as the Bible insists.

I’ll be clear: if something is invoking evil and Satan, I’m against that too.

But to me, the magic of Harry PotterMary PoppinsThe Wizard of Oz, etc., is not the same thing as what the Bible is describing as witchcraft.  Who knows.  Maybe I’m wrong.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

I said to my friend: “In Narnia, both the good side and bad side use magic.  Just like in Star Wars and many others.”

She asked if I was saying there is a “good” magic and a “bad” magic.

My response? “Of course there is a good magic– Christ’s miracles!  What else would you call them?”

Am I way off?  I think the amazing, supernatural, miraculous works of God could be described as “good magic.”

I don’t know how to explain it, so I’ll call upon J.R.R. Tolkien’s words in his essay “On Fairy Stories”:

The Gospels contain a fairystory, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, selfcontained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe.

deeper magic masikarainIn Narnia, there is a Deep Magic from the dawn of time … and there is a Deeper Magic from before the dawn of time.

I like that.

Image credit: MasikaRain

That Time Anne Lamott Responded to Me

Let’s be honest: this week has been hard.  Really hard.


I am writing a first draft, and it’s going horribly (as writing a first draft is wont to go), and I’m stumbling into evening after evening of soul-shaking, identity-questioning doubts about my writing abilities.

I’m a fraud.
I don’t know how to write a book.
I don’t have a second book in me.
My agent and editor and everyone else will discover that I’m just a one-book girl.

Goodreads hosted an event “Ask Anne Lamott” this past week, and just now, I have found the time to sift through her responses.  You need to know that Anne Lamott always seems to be speaking directly to my heart– we are both writers, Christians, and women who wildly, desperately need help– and so all of her responses to various reader-posed questions felt like balm.  This one, in fact, felt like validation:

Anne Lamott

“You have to be pretty lost and crazy” in writing fiction.  Yes, okay, I reassure myself.  This is just the way of things; this is The Way It Goes.

But then, there it was– an actual response to me.  Me!  Jackie Lea Sommers!

Anne Lamott to Me

“Short assignments, shitty first drafts, and just do it.”  Yes, thank you.  That is how my next novel will get written: day after day writing something bad, then making it less bad, then making it good, then making it great.  I’m in the bad stage right now, and that’s okay.

“You get to ask people for help.”  Yes, thank you.  I actually stopped in to my beloved writing professor’s office just yesterday to vocalize my fears, and she said that if I needed encouragement in the zen of writing or someone to commiserate with, I could just ask.  I will definitely be asking.  And then, last night, I met with [some, but not all, of] my writing group, women who let me vent about Penn and Maggie, my newest characters, and about their problems.  My group members listened and encouraged and offered suggestions, and it was lovely.  And I’m so terribly grateful for my beta readers too!

“And read a lot more poetry.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I think I’ll start with some Mary Oliver tonight.  I haven’t yet had a chance to crack open her latest, A Thousand Mornings.  Then Christian Wiman’s Every Riven Thing.  It sounds like respite.

Emerging Artists Collective

writing girl againMy college writing mentor Judith Hougen started an artist group in the Twin Cities called the Emerging Artists Collective, and we had our first meeting in November.

I cannot tell you how amazing it was to be gathered with other Christian artists (writers, filmmakers, visual artists) to discuss faith and writing.

The thing that stood out to me most was a quote Judy shared.  I have been looking online, and I can’t find the quote, but it went something like this: “The older I get, what I mean by Christianity and what I mean by writing are largely the same thing.”

I love that.

It’s true that in my own life, my faith and my writing have become terrifically wrapped up.  When I write, I feel like I have spent time with God.  It all feels very mysterious to me, but I love that too (of course I do).

Related posts:
The Faith of a Pantser
Why Christians Should Write


The Question of Emeth

Warning: spoilers ahead for The Last Battle, the final book of The Chronicles of Narnia series.

emethDoes anyone really know what to do with Emeth, that Calormene soldier who was so devoted to Tash … and yet was welcomed by Aslan?

Here’s the story: Emeth was on the “bad guys” side– part of the army from Calormen that was invading Narnia– and he had served Tash, the Calormen god (though he was evil, more of demon), since his youth.

Yet …

“So I went over much grass and many flowers and among all kinds of wholesome and delectable trees till lo! in a narrow place between two rocks there came to meet me a great Lion. The speed of him was like the ostrich, and his size was an elephant’s; his hair was like pure gold and the brightness of his eyes like gold that is liquid in the furnace. He was more terrible than the Flaming Mountain of Lagour, and in beauty he surpassed all that is in the world even as the rose in bloom surpasses the dust of the desert. Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.

“Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much, but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly.

“And since then, O Kings and Ladies, I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog – “

My friend Ashley has major issues with this part of the story (as do many others):

1) How does Emeth get “heaven” without having been devoted to Aslan?
2) How does this reconcile with the Christian doctrine that “there is only one name whereby men may be saved”?
(Though you could argue the two questions are the same.)

The answers?  I don’t know.

May I quote Wikipedia here?  It says:

The implication is that people who reflect a righteous heart are to some degree justified, regardless of misbelief. This is a cornerstone of Christian theology: one party cites the Christian paradigm that faith in Christ alone saves, and the other wants to account for the fate of those born and raised into another faith. There has been extensive commentary on the question. In a letter from 1952, Lewis summarized and explained his position:

I think that every prayer which is sincerely made even to a false god, or to a very imperfectly conceived true God, is accepted by the true God and that Christ saves many who do not think they know him. For He is (dimly) present in the good side of the inferior teachers they follow. In the parable of the Sheep and Goats those who are saved do not seem to know that they have served Christ.[2]

Lewis cites this view as derived[2] from the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:34-40, from Paul‘s speech to the Athenians in Acts 17:23: “What you now worship as something unknown, I am going to proclaim to you”, and from 1 Timothy 4:10: “God, the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (all references NIV).

Lewis encountered[2] one contradiction to this idea in Romans 10:14: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (TNIV). This is consistent with Paul’s doctrine that though God is already with the pagans, they still need to see him revealed. Lewis, however, replied with 1 Corinthians 1:12-13: “One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas‘; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ — Is Christ divided?” (TNIV), which he interpreted as indicating the sameness of God regardless of his context.

Perhaps the strongest support for Lewis’ case is found in Romans 2:13-15 (TNIV):

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)

A final reply is found in Jesus’ words in John 14:6: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (NIV). However, its interpretation is ambiguous: if Jesus meant that he was an object by conscious faith in whose name a person is saved, this verse would appear to contradict Lewis’ argument. However, Jesus could have meant (a) that he alone made salvation possible (i.e., activated it by his death), and/or that (b) as Lewis suggested, some might come to the Father through Jesus who did not at first realize that was what they were doing.

I admit that I myself have tried to reconcile it all by believing that the stable door was not a door of death and that the “real Narnia” they entered was more of a road to Damascus (leading to the gated garden, which was the true “heaven”).  I’ve perhaps lost many of you by now.

But I’d love to hear your thoughts.


My big question as of late was this:

How do I honor God, myself, and my agent when we seem to want different things?

A little backstory: my novel has significant religious themes, ones that are important to me.  (Like, the-core-of-who-I-am important.)  My agent thought it all needed to be toned down in order to sell.  At first, I thought I was going to refuse.  I really did.  I didn’t even look at my manuscript for over a week.

Then, one night, I had an epiphany.  I had thought epiphanies were accompanied by a choir of angels or a visible light bulb illuminated over one’s head, but it turns out that they can be just as quiet as a word crawling into your mind while you try to sleep and making a nest for itself there.

The word was parables.

In scripture, Christ told stories all the time.  Parables.  Lots of people believe that parables were intended to make things easier for people to understand, but that’s not actually what the Bible says.  Essentially, scripture says that parables were meant for some to see … and some to not.

I wondered, Can I bury these truths so deep in my story that those who want to see them will see them– and those who don’t want to won’t?

It seemed like the one and only way to satisfy my agent while also honoring the story I wanted to tell.  It also seemed terrifically difficult.  Shooting for such a minuscule target.  I knew I wasn’t good enough writer to do these edits without help.

So I prayed.  A lot.  And spent time in scripture.  A lot.  And wrote an okay new first draft, a better second draft, third …, showed it to my writing group, wrote another draft or so, and after two weeks of attempting to create a parable, I sent my revisions off to my agent.

Heard from him today.  Thumbs up.

He’s going to send the manuscript out to editors on Monday.

win win

 P.S. If you’re a person who prays, would you pray for my manuscript to find favor with an editor?  I’m sooooooo nervous!