Thursday, July 31, 2014

One Thing That's Ruining My Life

To say that the next few weeks are going to be crazy is the biggest understatement I could make right now. I’m going to the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC this weekend, which is going to be packed with all kinds of classes like ‘Creating Suspense: 13 Techniques for Making Your Readers Sweat’ and ‘Getting into the Act: Turn Your Readers into Your Marketers’. There’s even a class on advanced metadata! Whatever that is.

At the conference, I registered for a pitch slam — which is basically like speed dating for writers and agents. I’ll have 90 seconds to pitch my book, and the agent has 90 seconds to respond/give feedback. I was excited when I first signed up for the pitch slam, but now I’m just terrified because my novel is NOT where I thought it would be at this point.

The following weekend we’ll be going to the wedding of one of my best friends, Danielle. I’m the matron of honor (which makes me sound so old, doesn’t it?!) which is exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

The weekend after Danielle’s wedding, we are moving into our new apartment.

Then, we go to Lake Tahoe for another wedding.

Oh, and did I mention that we have a new puppy and I haven’t slept through the night for almost a week now?

Needless to say, I’m a little worried. And by ‘a little’, I mean, ‘A LOT’. I’m worried about the pitch slam, I’m worried about flying by myself, I’m worried about meeting new people, I’m worried about Danielle’s wedding and the bachelorette party and the MOH speech which has been written in my head while I lay in bed in an insomnia-driven stupor and I’m worried about the moving and the furniture and how it will fit in the house and the puppy and the…

You get the point.

But the worry is just ruining my life. And my sleep. So I’m determined to not be so worried, but that’s a lot easier than it sounds. Here’s what I’m doing to help with the worry and you guys will have to tell me what you do when you’re worried.

1. Pray. And then pray some more. And then, when that doesn’t work, I keep praying. I really believe prayer is a supernatural thing — every time I pray about something, I do feel better about it. For about five minutes. Then, I have to pray again.

2. Go for walks/exercise. Blowing off some steam outside or in the gym seems to make a big difference. It releases endorphins, serotonin and can even normalize sleep ( And, apparently exercise can help curb depression.

3. Talk with people I trust. I don’t think it’s a great idea to just dump all of my problems on my friends ALL of the time, but there’s definitely a time and a place for it. Like now. This week, as I’ve been sharing my worries with people, it’s genuinely helpful to: 
  1. Be listened to, and
  2. Hear people’s advice and anecdotes

I told my hairdresser about my wedding-planning woes and she told me a horrific story about a wedding she was in that made me feel a lot better about my situation. Sometimes, when we share with others what’s going on in our lives, it makes it seem more manageable than it is in our heads.

4. Try to relax. Emphasis on the try. For me, this means watching America’s Next Top Model (I’m not sure why this show has become my guilty pleasure, but I love it) and take a bath. I probably need to spend a little more time doing this.

What about you? What have you been worrying about lately and what are you doing to worry less?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Text Messages From Emily

In Loving Memory of Emily Aultman

I met Emily in Anatomy class, Spring 2013, 7:20am.

Her red hair was as bright as her personality; her smile, infectious. Despite the ungodly hour of the class, Emily was always cheerful. Throughout the semester, we built a friendship. We exchanged Anatomy notes, encouraged each other before tests and talked about our relationships with God. I’ll never forget when she surprised me with my favorite Starbucks coffee — a gesture that meant far more than just an early-morning caffeine jolt.

After the semester, Tyler and I moved away from Gainesville and I never saw Emily again, but she kept in touch with me. In the short time that I knew her, Emily was always giving to other people. Last summer, she text messaged me asking for prayers for some of her Young Life girls who were struggling in their relationships with God. It was evident in her texts that she cared deeply for these girls; she couldn’t help but pray for them and ask for me to pray for them.

Today, I found out that Emily passed away in a car accident. I was shocked and saddened by the fact that this beautiful soul will no longer reside on this earth. After I heard the news, I went through my phone to read her text messages to me and reminisced about this God-loving redhead. In reading our texts, I remembered that at the end of the semester, Emily had dropped the Anatomy course that we took together. I remembered that it was a time of frustration for her, and that she felt weighed down by her decision.

As I was praying about Emily this morning, I realized how little that Anatomy class matters now. Her soul is no longer earth-bound, the worries of this world mean very little to her now. I know with certainty that Emily, in her eternal state, will not think about that Anatomy class one bit. If anything, she is thinking about us — the people who knew her and love her. She truly had a heart for people and for God, and that is what matters in this life.

Emily will not be remembered by whether or not she passed a class. She will not be remembered for her major, or the fact that she went to the University of Florida. She will not be remembered by these “earthly” things. What she will be remembered by is her incredible love for people, her love for God and her vivacious spirit.

The last text that Emily sent to me, she expressed that she was mourning the loss of a friend that had passed away last year. She said:

 “I’m in a place trying to trust God and praying that I don’t continue to feel the need to know why or the purpose behind her death but that I’ll trust and believe that He does all things well, even in the midst of my hurting heart.” 

Her words ring so true today as I ask God these same questions, and struggle with the same things she struggled with only weeks ago. The encouraging part of all of this for me is that her struggle is over. I don’t know how eternity will work, but I’d like to believe that Emily is with God, and with her friend right now. I think that Emily would recognize that in this life we battle through losses and hardships, but if we are faithful to God, we will come out of it eternally strong.

When I think of Emily, I think of someone who struggled just like all of us do, yet she didn’t give in — she was courageous and spirited. She was an adventuress who trusted God. I hope that I can be that way. And I hope that I will be able to have an eternal perspective about this life — the Anatomy classes of the world will not matter in the long run, so why should I worry about it now?

I ask that all of you join me as I try to focus on the things that really matter in this life: God and the relationships he’s given me. In honor of Emily’s short yet poignant life, and the love that God has given me, I will throw off the worries of this world and live life to the fullest — because that is what we were made for. I hope that you will do the same.

Here’s to you, Emily.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why the Hard Things are Usually the Best Things

Some days, writing is easy. My fingers glide over the keyboard, the words flowing from my heart onto the page and I can just keep going for hours without taking a break.

Today is not one of those days.

Yesterday wasn’t either.

So, what gives? Did I suddenly lose my word-flowing power? Am I destined to be a literary failure? Am I really a writer, or is that a term that I use simply because I don’t know how else to label myself?

All of these thoughts were racing through my head when I saw this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and I realized that this is exactly what needs to be happening right now. Sometimes, even your dream job has to be hard, or else, is it really worth it?

Most things that are truly rewarding are difficult to achieve. For example:

  • Relationships: usually, the best relationships are the ones that had the most work put into them. It’s easy to look at a healthy marriage from a distance and think that they have it all together and it’s just-so-beautiful, but usually those people with the healthiest marriages have battled through their fair share of ugliness to get to the beauty that we’re admiring now. 
  • Working out: There are rare days when it’s fun to work out. But for the most part, it’s painful. Being healthy, exercising, eating right, etc. can be mentally, emotionally and physically draining. But the results are ALWAYS worth it. And usually, it becomes easier the longer you're committed to the training.
  • School: One of the hardest classes in my entire academic career was Russian. I had to study every single day, sometimes for hours a day, for it to be meaningful at all. But, I LOVED it. The most challenging subjects are usually the ones that are the most gratifying in the end.

I think these same principles apply to most aspects of life, and hopefully they will apply to my book. I’m going to be honest with you guys: I’m tired. I want this book to be done. Yet here I am, doing a total re-write of the book I JUST FINISHED because this is important to me and I want it to be the very best that it can possibly be.

So, right now it’s really hard. But I’m hoping that at some point, it will get easy. And, even if it doesn’t, something tells me that the end result will be satisfying.

Are you going through anything right now that is proving to be more difficult than you thought? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

I'll leave you guys with one last quote from Goethe: