Word of the Week

Courage comes in steps, you know?

No one does a hard thing all at once.  Life's big dreams are rarely fulfilled in giant leaps.

In the early months of 2011, I started to get a hunch that I wanted to write a book.

A hard thing. A seemingly impossible thing. Me, an author? Who would believe that?

I wasn't so sure I had the discipline to pound out all those words on the screen. I wasn't sure I had the savvy to convince a publisher to take me, a young pastor, on. Or, even that I had the guts to tell the truth the way I admired it in the works of others.

Not only this but . . .

I wanted to write a book about the one thing I didn't want anyone to know about me at the time: the I word.


Through the lens of "Elizabeth the infertile" pastor,  I knew I wanted to tell the truth about the intense physical and emotional pain of miscarriage, child loss all while being a solo pastor.

I knew I wanted to tell the truth about all of the unwanted side effects of such a struggle: depression, loss of friendships and ugly marriage moments.

I knew I wanted to tell the truth about the great mysteries of God, how hope finds us through friendship, second chances and prayer.

Most of all, I wanted to be a resource for other women, other couples or other spiritual seekers who like me faced their "dark night of the soul"  by telling my story-- that even when the worst possible things happened (and kept happening) to us I was still ok. And maybe even more than ok sometimes too.

So with all of this true: I only had one choice.  Write the book.

In the wisdom of Anne Lamott this was my plan: "Keep your butt in the chair." (Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.) And I did!  But, life is often more complicated than our intentions.

And the best things, I believe take time to unfold, especially when it comes to writing and even more when you're writing about your own life!

I completed the manuscript for this infertility memoir back in April 2013.

80,000 words on a page. My goodness, I was proud!

I thought that 2013 was my time to show it to the world. But it wasn't. And this fact was SO difficult to accept on top of so many other failures. "Jesus, you're killing me . . ." was my prayer back then. (And maybe he was but that's another story for later!)

Yet, in the early months of 2014 with new inspiration, I decided I needed to re-write the draft from scratch. Yes, THE. WHOLE. THING! I even blogged about why here. I'll tell you it's no small thing to start over, but I did and loved the new framework.

But then, life got hard. Real hard. My courage went away. Infertility and adoption failure came to bite my husband and me in the ass (again).

So the manuscript goes to live on a shelf to live for 15 months. I could not bear to look at it. It was all I could do to get out of bed each morning and try to connect with other meaningful work and people.

I might not even complete this project after all . . .

But, thank goodness for stones of help along the way. Voices who said, "Don't give up!"

Thank goodness for friends who read a draft last April and told me "The world needs your story. You must share it."

Thank goodness for this new season of life and all its unexpected joys and the gift of knowing I more than just survived a really hard chapter but I'm thriving through it.

And most of all thank goodness for this good news I have to share with you today.

I am happy to announce that my manuscript (tentatively titled) Unsilencing the Grief: A Pastor's Fertile Infertility Story is now under CONTRACT with Chalice Press, due out by February 2017.

I couldn't be happier to have found a publishing home with Chalice: a respected and forward thinking press committed to giving the church and spiritual seekers resources for the joys and sorrows of real life (my kind of people!).

I would be lying if I didn't say there's a part of me still nervous to be sharing such a personal story with the world, but I couldn't be more excited either. I'm tired of this manuscript being a computer file on my computer.

For, I want those of you who've faced seasons of deep disappointment, pain and anger to know you have a soul sister in me!

Stay tuned for updates about publication but for now, join me in saying "Thanks be to God!" that such a joyous day has come.

January 13, 2016 goes down in our household as a very good day! Let the editing begin.


Recently I have found myself being asked more about writing. Such as: "How do I find time to do so much of it?"  "How do I decide what to write about?" "Why write a blog when you don't know if anyone out there is really reading?"

I giggle a little to think that someone would ask me such questions because only in the past six months have I been able to confidently say that I am a writer as much as I am a pastor among other things.  Yet, the truth of the matter is that I've been steady at the discipline of blogging since 2006-- back before it was a cool-- and have loved every minute of it.  If you want to make me smile, let's have a conversation about writing.

If you want to know why I blog, check out the "About Elizabeth page."  For the rest, here's my in the process of learning list for today:

1. You must write and write a lot to get better at it. Sounds un-profound, but it's true. There is no magic formula to being a writer.  As much as you might have a natural inclination for words, you have to learn the craft. Blessed be the friends who read you stuff even when it is bad and don't tell you how bad it really is-- these are the people you need in your life cheering you on believing in the fact that it will get better. They'll be plenty of editors or critical blog commenters who will tell you the truth!

2. If you are going to be a writer, you need to know when is your time of day when ideas come. For me this is annoyingly the moment I put my head on my pillow at night. I lay there and my head floods with topics for new blogs or ideas for how I want to arrange the chapters of my upcoming book project. I try to fight it, telling myself to forget until morning. But, usually such a declaration doesn't work. So, I say, if creativity calls, run with it. (Just don't publish a blog after 11 pm. Most I know are usually sorry for this in the am).

3. Write with heart. Again, not profound. But often, I've found readers forgiving me for a multitude of grammar sins if they know I believe and am passionate about what I am trying to say.  Especially in persuasive writing (which is what I mostly do-- sermons and op ed type pieces), readers need to know you personally care about what you describe. There's nothing worse to read, I think, than a journalistic type writer trying to give you the facts and then expecting you to care when you have no idea if the writer cares first! Caring of course don't have to explicit. People know if you do or don't implicitly.

4. Make friends with other writers.  Non-writers just don't see prose they way a writer does.  My mom or my husband, for example, will read my stuff and will often comments in helpful ways, but their feedback is never as a good as that of my writing friends. Fellow writers will tell me that I had "a nice turn of phrase" or "this theme connection really made the essay work" or "I didn't start liking you as a character until half way through the chapter." Other writers speak your langauge and so you always need to stick close to them.

5. Do not be afraid of the delete button. In the beginning of my weekly writing career, especially with sermons, I was really anxious about cutting large chunks of the piece out.  I had worked so hard! It was so sad to see a paragraph go that I would cut and paste it into another word document hoping to come back to it later. The funny thing is that I NEVER would need it.  Sometimes the delete button can be your writing project's very best friend. Though a tear may be shed, the best thing is to just go with it. Tear the band-aid quickly though and you'll feel better for it.

And, most of all read about writing. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is one of my favorites.