Eighteen & Again

Someone posted something on Instagram recently (and now I can’t find it) about life at 18 vs. life now. It occurred to me that it’s been 18 years since I was 18, and of course that intrigued the writer in me. So I thought I’d explore the comparison of those two milestones in my life.

At 18 …
I wanted to be a published author, along with all the glamour that came with it
At 36 …
I am a published author, along with all the stress and anxiety that came with it

At 18 …
I had undiagnosed OCD
At 36 …
I’ve been in remission for a decade

At 18 …
I thought true love was just around the corner and I’d likely be married by 22
At 36 …
I still hope true love and marriage are just around the corner

At 18 …
I was so extroverted I had to force myself into 10 minutes of being alone each day, at the urging of my favorite professor
At 36 …
I am so introverted I have to force myself to make plans with people

At 18 …
I could eat breakfast food for every meal
At 36 …
I can eat breakfast food for every meal

At 18 …
I had always been ultra-thin, but felt like a kid
At 36 …
I’ve battled with weight issues for over a decade, but (usually) love my curves

At 18 …
I had almost no health issues (outside of OCD)
At 36 …
I’m a web of interrelated diagnoses

At 18 …
I wanted to know that God found me acceptable
At 36 …
I know he does

At 18 …
I had spent one semester at Northwestern
At 36 …
I have spent 18 years at Northwestern

At 18 …
I didn’t even know yet that I enjoyed the company of children or teens
At 36 …
Kids are my purest joy, and I write novels for teenagers because I love that stage of life

At 18 …
I hadn’t even met most of the people who would be my friends as an adult
At 36 …
I continue to amass the most incredible friends this earth has to offer

At 18 …
I had not yet read any of the books I would later say had changed my life (outside of the Bible)
At 36 …
I’m excited about what life-changing stories are still ahead

Martha, Martha.

Productivity really matters to me.  A lot.  Maybe too much.

This was my prayer the other night:

I love You, God.  I really do.  Why don’t I spend more time with You?  I have this idea about productivity meaning that I churn out a product.  But it is productive to spend time with You.  I think of the Mary/Martha story– Martha was cleaning and serving and being productive, but You said that Mary made the better choice– to sit at Your feet and listen, adore.  Calm me down.  Help me to not feel like I always need to produce.  I know that part of it is just the creative spirit that You gave me that drives me to create– and in so doing, I believe I am mimicking You, hopefully to Your glory– but I never want my creative tendencies to get into the way of my relationship with You.  Holy Spirit, I need You to change this in me.  Help me to be satisfied just to be with You.  I do feel like we are together while I write– and I am writing for You– all I do is for You.  I want to be like Mary, to sit at Your feet and adore.  But it is not in my nature, Lord, so I will need You to engender that in me.  Martha, Martha, you are worried about so many things.  Jackie, Jackie.

a poem


Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”  None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?”  knowing that it was the Lord.  John 21:12

Galilee is in one of her moods.

The stubborn sea has refused our nets for hours, all night even,
the slight wind whispering a sharp ache into my ears,
the night air annoying my muscles into unyielding aggravation.

Fish bowels from more successful outings rot in quiet corners,
the soft staleness contrasting with the slick slime on the wooden sides.
This tiresome enterprise hurts my forearms and back.

As the sun rises, it brings with it that fusty morning-breath feeling,
a natural all-over reminder that a cycle has passed and I have ignored it.
One hundred yards away, a man watches my weakness from the shore.

He speaks: “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?”
The answer is decidedly no.
This time: Abracadabra.  “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat.”
And we cannot lift the net.  It is Him.

Like a moment when your own falling forward wakes you up suddenly,
my heart rate rockets.  Peter takes no time to consider wave-walking, only
jumps into the water like a lover in a hurry.

I hold the net, now wide-awake.  My heart burgeons; I feel my pulse in my arms,
my chest, my throat.  I wish my devotion was now a soaked outer garment,
but at the same time, my head has been snapped into alertness
too quickly, and I feel mute even while I yell to hold the net.

Stepping to the shore is like crossing a thick line into another land
where silence is king and stillness is queen.  Only God is over them both,
so He speaks: “Come and have breakfast.”

A charcoal fire cooks God’s catch, and we add some of ours to the fire.
My hands shake, not only with cold.  I look at the dead eyes of the fish
as they cook.  Their open eyes and open mouths make me their
breathing brother.  My mind spells peculiar out slowly:

To sit across a man who is more than a man, once dead but now
serving breakfast is too much.  All things collide:

prophecy, the Word become flesh, promises and wine, blessed are the poor in spirit, prayer and peace and psalms and palms, overturned tables and the look on His face, blessing the children, rebuking the demons, His offer of rest, all the metaphors, the stories, the quiet explanations away from the crowds, Truth for the first time, freedom, excitement, fervor, reality, wisdom, honor, purity, healing mud mixed by the King, that devastating dinner in the upper room, the washbin, the water, the way that He stooped, Gethsemane where I slept while He suffered, the crowds, the chants, Barabas unchained, the cheers, the jeers, the scorn, the blood,

the blood, the blood, the blood, the blood,

the walk, the tree, splintered wood on Calvary, the words, the orders, the dramatic curtain making a scene, the rushing terror, the torture, pain, emptiness, loss, the women, the tomb, the rock, the angels, the appearing, victory
and all
for my sake.

He offers me bread in the quiet on the shore.

Lord, forgive me! my heart pleads across the coals.
His wild eye meets mine: That was the whole point.

Pure-O Compulsions

Media usually presents obsessive-compulsives with very obvious compulsions: hand-washing is a favorite but also extreme organization and hoarding, as well as checking and counting.  But not all compulsions are so easy to see.

In fact, some compulsions are so difficult to recognize that it lead to a misnomer– Pure Obsessional OCD.  The name Pure-O leads some to believe that this type of OCD can essentially drop the “C” from its acronym.  But that would be a mistake.

Pure-O’s still have compulsions– they are just harder for the public to notice.  They include mental rituations like repetition, avoidance, and seeking reassurance.

For example:
I would have an intrusive, blasphemous thought– which would cause me to question my salvation.  I would repeat a particular prayer over and over in my head to ward off this thought, and I would ask everyone if they thought I was going to go to hell (sometimes this would be active– “Do you think I’m going to hell?”– and sometimes passive, as in “I’m scared I’m going to go to hell” and waiting for that person to reassure me … “Why would you think that?!  No way!”).  I would also avoid certain things (Matthew 12 and Mark 3, for example, or movies with profanity, which would trigger my blasphemous thoughts).

Sometimes it was hard to really focus on a conversation I was having because there was another entire conversation happening in my head at the same time.  It’s like listening to two tracks at once.

I wrote a poem to demonstrate it:

So … yeah.  There are compulsions you would never know are there, except for the strange look in my eyes, the odd shake of my head as if I were erasing something dark and secret.


After we watched the Blue Like Jazz screening, my former writing professor Judy and I went to the St. Clair Broiler for some late-night breakfast and conversation.

A few things you should know about Judy: she is brilliant, a gifted writer and teacher, and she loves Jesus very much and connects with him in lovely and unique ways like Taizé and lectio divina.

One thing she said to me over pancakes and French toast was this: “Some people hold their brokenness at arm’s length.  Some people embrace their brokenness.  And some people celebrate their brokenness.”

That’s what I want to do– celebrate my brokenness.  I am not ashamed of my obsessive-compulsive disorder.  The Lord’s power is perfected in my weakness.  His grace is sufficient.

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9b).

How about you?

not only neurotic, but a writer too

If you subscribe to my blog, you know that my posts revolve around obsessive-compulsive disorder and that I sometimes post scenes from the book I’ve been writing about OCD.  Tonight, instead of writing about OCD, I want to write about writing.  Meta-writing … now there’s something an OC can latch onto!  Haha!

Words have been important to me since I was young– summertimes, my mom would have to yell at me to go play outside, since all I wanted to do was lie in my bed and read.  We met halfway: I took my book outdoors.  My sister and I and the neighbor girl would play “library,” setting all our books out on the stairs to the deck, carefully each selecting one, “checking it out,” and retreating to various areas of the yard to read.  They would abandon their books long before I would.

When I was in third grade, I remember creating a whole made-up family of characters so that I could write stories about them.  In junior high, I started to mess around with poetry.  In high school, I wrote an episodic soap opera and passed it around for friends to read.  When the notebook made its way back to me, I wrote some new scenes.  In college, I studied creative writing and finally discovered a true family of other writers, who– let’s be honest– are all a little strange.  It’s not mean.  We just are.

In 2008, I began chicken-scratching some thoughts about my latest Paxil-induced obsession, which turned into a four year novel-writing project that I’m pretty proud of.

Well.  That is, until I read some fantastic new book.  Then I feel like I will never be more than mediocre.

Readers love books.  Writers do too.  But sometimes writers kind of hate them as well.  Take, for example, last night when I read The Fault in Our Stars, the latest by John Green, and found myself simultaneously DELIGHTED by it and MORTIFIED as it revealed my own weaknesses.  One of my greatest desires in life is to be a good writer, and so, reading great writing from others is wonderful/horrible, an honor/shameful, a gift/a rebuke.  I would never “forfeit” the opportunities to have read The Book Thief,  Jellicoe Road, The Last Unicorn, For the Time Being, Peace Like a River, and absolutely anything by Billy Collins.  Doesn’t mean I didn’t seethe with envy while I read.

I complained to my friend Kyle, who wrote me You can trust a good giver that He’s given you what you need. So, take heart, and write.

And my friend Erica patiently encouraged Remember you are part of the body of Christ and have greater purpose.  I totally believe in your writing.

Both were needed reminders for this neurotic writer.

The Last Battle

On this first night of 2012, I am thinking about my favorite book, The Last Battle, written by C.S. (Jack) Lewis.  If you haven’t read The Chronicles of Narnia yet, then 2012 is your year!  These books have been so important in my life that I find myself reading the entire series about 6-8 times a year.  They are well worth the time invested.

In The Last Battle, there is incredible confusion in Narnia– there is an imposter pretending to be Aslan, the great Lion, who is making terrible commandments.  There is one bit of dialogue I’d like to share with you:

You will go to your death, then,” said Jewel.

“Do you think I care if Aslan doomes me to death?” said the King. “That would  be nothing,  nothing at all. Would it not be better to be dead than to have this  horrible fear that Aslan  has come and is not like the Aslan we have believed in  and longed for? It is as if the  sun  rose one day and were a black sun.”

“I know,” said Jewel. “Or if you drank water and it were dry water. You are in the  right,  Sire. This is the end of all things.”

During my darkest OCD moments, this is how I felt– and actually some of my issues I refered to as “black sun obsessions”– obsessions where the ground was taken from beneath my feet, where I felt as if my entire worldview was being dismantled.  Those nights, my soul felt as if there were no place to land.  I was in free-fall.

But, later in the book, the King and Jewel discover the Truth— that an ape is behind this entire masquerade.

But now, as Tirian looked round on the miserable faces of the Narnians, and thought how they would all believe that Aslan and Tash were one and the same, he could bear it no longer.
“Ape,” he cried, “You lie. You lie damnably. You lie like a Calormene. You lie like an Ape.”

What I am trying to say is this: there are no black suns if you love Jesus Christ– only things that appear to be black suns.  He is bigger than our obsessions, and He is the solid ground beneath our feet.  It may feel as though Christianity could crack down the middle like a split log, but God is our gravity.  I was never in free-fall; I was lying in the great palm of my God.

Christmas isn’t fun for everyone

My roommate is a Christmas fanatic– every year, she chooses one day after Thanksgiving where we pause everything else to put on some Christmas music, drink hot cocoa, and decorate our apartment.  Every Christmas decoration in the entire apartment belongs to her.  Well, time out, I guess we each paid half for our little four-foot tree.

Desiree has this entire Willow Tree nativity set, as seen below.

Can you picture her as a senior in high school, eagerly opening up each element of the scene?  It makes me laugh– but in a good way!  Des is the sweetest girl ever, and this is a great metaphor of each of us.  Des is “steady eddie”– not that she doesn’t have her own issues to deal with– but she is strong and caring and clean and a good cook.  And then there’s me, a tornado who is still learning how to take care of herself.

Christmas is an interesting time for me– to be honest, I am learning to enjoy it.  Growing up, it was a very difficult time of the year for me.  Picture Minnesota in the winter: it gets dark so early, there’s usually piles of snow, and the temperature is below freezing– sometimes dangerously below.  It’s like a dream location for seasonal depression.

And then, with OCD stacked on top of it, pretty much everything about Christmas was a trigger: my mind would race with thoughts of whether I believed in God, and if He was real, if He had saved me.

There is an image of me that we still have somewhere at my parents’ house– me, hovering somewhere around 17-20 years old, with this look at the camera.  I can remember exactly what I was thinking in it.  I was looking at the camera and asking my future self, Are you okay yet?  I hope you don’t feel this way still.

These days, I can answer my past self, I am better.  I am healthier.  And no, most days I do not feel that way.

Praise GOD!  Thank You, Jesus, for cognitive-behavioral therapy.

So tonight I’m thinking about different kinds of folks– I know there are some– actually, MANY– who are like Des, yearly filled with holiday cheer, basking in the glow of the Christmas lights, huddled comfortably around the tree and the nativity scene.  But there are others who spend their holidays the way I did– filled with doubt (laced with the tiniest bit of hope), depression, confusion, and sickness– and all while feeling that instead, they really ought to be happy.

If you are in the second camp, I hear you.  I’ve been there.  This prayer is for you:

Jesus, I celebrate You– I celebrate Your marvelous incarnation, the Word becoming flesh.  Tonight, Lord, I lift up to You all those who are burdened with heavy, laboring hearts this season– whether from depression, anxiety, mental illness, or internal crisis.  YOU ARE STRONG ENOUGH TO HOLD US ALL.  Just as that first Christmas was the initiation of Your inexplicably great rescue plan, I pray that this Christmas will be the start of Your new rescue mission in the lives of these sufferers.  You are Love.  You are Truth.  You are the mighty redeemer.  I entrust my heart to You and ask that You would hold those for whom I’m praying– in a way that is felt.  Amen.

I boast in the cross.

I give the credit for my rescue from OCD to Jesus Christ alone, and I believe that CBT and medicine and doctors were the tools He used.

Tonight I listened to a sermon online given by John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church, right here in Minneapolis.  He was talking about something that won’t make sense to some:

“[F]or redeemed sinners, every good thing–[and] indeed every bad thing that God turns for good–was obtained for us by the cross of Christ. Apart from the death of Christ, sinners get nothing but judgment. Apart from the cross of Christ, there is only condemnation. Therefore, everything that you enjoy in Christ–everything you boast in, everything you exult in–is owing to the death of Christ. And all your exultation in other things is to be an exultation in the cross where all your blessings were purchased for you at the cost of Christ’s life.”

Essentially, if I follow the path of blessings back to its source, there I will find the cross–the death–of Jesus Christ.  Because the death of Christ was an act of grace, an act of rescue.

I am grateful and blessed and pleased to be free from the clutches of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  In doing so, I am exulting in the cross of Jesus.

As Piper said, “[Being dead to the world] means that every legitimate pleasure in the world becomes a blood-bought evidence of Christ’s Calvary love and an occasion of boasting in the cross.”

I am thankful for …

Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection

chocolate               internet       dear friends                                 

                 mom, dad, sister, brother                      Risperdal

             goals               Northwestern College        Harry Potter

C.S. Lewis           cognitive-behavioral therapy          

           freedom in its various forms            life            hope

the joy of writing     hilarious co-workers      YouTube             

NARNIA                     laughter        inside jokes                        

        attractive men who love Jesus            

soundtracks           cologne               Minnesota         

                                       small towns and big cities           

spring                     summer               fall            (gulp) winter

         awkwardness             youth ministry        babies            

sarcasm                Trinity City Church                   etsy              

conversation              silliness         dorkiness             

books                     audiobooks          

God’s rescuing me from hell and OCD