Redefining Success

I’ve been telling everyone who asks that my signing this past weekend was a success. And it was! But, if they were to look at my stats, I doubt they would be impressed. Why? Because I define success in terms that are harder to quantify.

Instead of looking at follower count, I look at the quality of those relationships. Instead of word count, meaningful words. Instead of attendees, true connections. And did I have fun? Instead of sales…well to be honest, as an indie author living on a budget, sales are always in the back of my mind. But I’m training myself to focus here: Has it helped anyone? Are my readers enjoying it? But my ultimate level of success is whether or not people have seen Christ in me.

I’ve found looking at the world in these terms lessens the stress levels and discontent. Because as great as a large wordcount, readership, and royalties are; when your focus is placed there, you’re in constant comparison mode. There will always be someone out there with better stats than you. And so, you are left always needing more. Just one more follow to beat the algorithm. Just one more k to hit that ‘sweet spot’. Just one more sale to move up the list. Just one more, just one more… And y’all, it’s draining!

So today, I’m challenging you to take a hard look at how you define success. And if needed, make a mental shift to focus on the things that feed your soul rather than drain it. 💛

Also, just want to give a big shout out to my mom for all the help! She made such an impression one buyer asked her to sign the book too 😂 Tip for my fellow introverts: when doing events, bring an extrovert with you!

5 Mental Health Care Tips

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day! If you’ve been around here for a while, you know mental health is very important to me. So today, I’m sharing a few of my favorite ways to care for it.

1. Naps!

It sounds cheesy, but I firmly believe naps are magic. No matter how bad the day is, it looks a little bit better once I’m well rested.

2. Quality time with friends and family.

Everyone needs a shoulder to lean on now and then. Talking your troubles out, even if you don’t reach a solution, can give you a real moral boost. This includes prayer, btw. There’s a certain kind of peace that comes from handing off your worries to the one who loves you most and is always able to handle them.

3. Fresh air.

Never underestimate the power of fresh air and sunshine! I’m partial to hiking or a bonfire, but any outdoor activity will do. Even if it’s just sitting on your porch watching the leaves fall.

4. Be Cozy.

Clichés exist for a reason. And warm cookies with a glass of milk and a fluffy blanket has never failed to put me in a better mood. Soothing music and a good candle never hurt either 😉

5. Journaling

Obviously as an author, writing helps me process things. Whether its journaling about my troubles or creating fictional worlds in which to face them. Things just seem less scary and more manageable once I’ve unloaded them from my mind to a sturdy notebook (or more often, word doc).

So, what about you, friends? How have you cared for your mental health this weekend? Got any care tips to share with me?

Managing Stress

How do you deal when the world comes crashing down?

NGL, my first impulse is to curl up on the couch and bingewatch years of tv within a couple weeks 😅 But my more helpful tactics include time outside or with friends, baking, and focusing on one small accomplishable task at a time.


It’s been a particularly brutal month for me. I’ve been cleaning up one catastrophe after another on all fronts. As soon as I get one thing resolved, another shoe drops. And though my trials may not be large in the grand scheme of things, they feel gargantuan in the moment.

But when I take a step back, I notice all the small blessing’s God’s showered me with along the hard road. Mainly in the community that’s pulled around me. Co-workers took me hiking, good friends checked in on me at just the right time, I made new friends in a ladies’ group, and Sunday School is finally back on!

It’s so easy for the treacherous mountain path to overshadow the flowers along the road or obscure the pond on the far side. So, as we close out the month, I’m challenging us to focus on the good moments, no matter how small.


Also, this month’s binge was Once Upon A Time. Any other CaptainSwan shippers here?

Tribe

I fully believe finding your tribe , sisterhood , found family is one of the biggest blessings God gives. Now, this doesn’t mean he’ll only bring you people exactly like you. We all need a bit of diversity and challenge in our lives. But he’ll always give you YOUR PEOPLE. The ones who understand you on a level no one else does.

I’ve had this kind of community several times throughout my life. Each time I thought I lost it, God was SOOO faithful to bring me a new one.

Growing up it was the other foreigners. The ex-pats. The TCKs. The ones who knew what it was to live outside your comfort zone. To always be learning a new language, a new culture, a new life. To never quite
belong. The Brit who comes to your 4th of July party. The Costa Rican who celebrates Thanksgiving with you. Because they know it doesn’t matter why you’re together, just that you are.

I largely lost that sense of community after moving back to the states at 16. I did have a great friend group in college, many of whom I still consider family, but didn’t quite find my people again ’til almost a decade later.

Four years ago, one of said college friends brought me into Realm Makers and Realmies quickly filled that gap in my heart. They come from all walks of life and all over the world, but they know what it is to write. To write for the Lord. And to do so in a genre that is often gravely misunderstood. Once again, to never quite fit in. The ones who admire your cat ears and handcrafted cloak. The ones who will skip class to talk life for hours on end. The ones who cheer their hearts out for the person who just beat them in an award.

Because this is not competition. This is the family of Christ. Laughing with those who laugh and mourning with those who mourn. Showing love and grace, not only to the outside world, but to one another. And I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it.

Now tell me, where is your tribe?

Beautiful Scars

We tend to think of scars as ugly, don’t we? They’re reminders of our stupidity, weakness, tragedy, abuse, pain. We may occasionally take pride in one with a great story behind it, but for the most part we hide them in shame.

I know that’s how I’ve often felt about mine. There’s one from disembowelment I’ve always particularly hated. (ok, it was really an ileostomy & reversal 😉). Sometimes I look on it with a sense of pride. Here is proof I can be a warrior! I fought for my life after a premature birth and overcame! But most often, I only see the imperfections. The reminder that I’ve always been small and weak. The fact that I can’t take credit for my scars. After all, I was just a newborn. What did I really do? That’s all down to God, my parents, and the doctors.

But I’m learning that’s where the beauty lies. No battle is won, no scar overcome, by a lone warrior. We need God and each other for true healing. When you can move from ‘this happened to me’ to ‘I survived this’ to ‘God and family saw me through this’ and find pride in that, your scars are no longer ugly imperfections but beautiful reminders.

So today, I’m proudly showing you my beautiful scar.
Now, tell me, brave warriors, what beauty lies behind yours?

Finding the Good in 2020

It’s Thanksgiving here in America and I recon we’re all needing it a bit more than usual this year. 2020 has been awful, and I don’t know anyone who’s come through completely unscathed, but if it’s taught me anything it’s not to take things for granted. It’s reminded me to find something every day to be grateful for, even if it’s just a cup of tea.

So, through all the chaos of a worldwide pandemic, tense election year, and personal catastrophe, here’s my short-list of thankfulness.

10 Things I’m Thankful For in 2020

In no particular order:

  1. The obvious one this year is health. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t always deal graciously with my health issues. I’m more likely to grumble about keeping track of medicine and refills than I am to stop and thank God for the very same medicine and doctors that make my daily life livable. But this year, I’m just a little more grateful.
  2. The ability to stay in touch with family and friends. Having friends spread out all over the world, this has always been something I’m thankful for. But through the isolation of COVID, I’ve reconnected with many of my closest friends online.
  3. The number of virtual conferences and gatherings that have popped up. While I’m sure this was a blow to those organizing, the virtual nature of 2020 has enabled me to attend a lot that I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. Instead of missing out on some of my favorite things, I got to do extra!
  4. All the extra writing time. Without the work I got done during that initial shutdown, I likely wouldn’t be publishing now. Of course, launch means I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write anything new for quite a while, but I figure it’s worth it 😉
  5. My house and that I have a dad who can fix it. To be honest, buying a house was never on my bucket list. Definitely wasn’t something I planned on doing as a 20-something single girl. But my parents talked me into it when prices dropped so low. And while the process was extremely stressful for me, and repairs continue to be, I’ve been so glad I listened!
  6. That I’ve got a good job with great co-workers. Near the beginning of the year, I was informed that my position was being dissolved due to budget cuts. That was a massive blow! Not only was it my livelihood, it was my dream job. I had good friends there. And it was being taken away. Harder to swallow, it was being taken away through no fault of my own. If I had done something wrong, at least I would know that I deserved it. Then the pandemic came in full swing and I had the added stress of finding a job during work shortages. BUT GOD PROVIDES! Within a couple months, I found a great new job working alongside the wife of one of my former coworkers! It’s been a bumpy ride as COVID continues to restrict the work environment, but we’re coming through just fine.
  7. The Great British Baking Show! Yes, I realize it’s been around for ages. But I’ve just discovered this perfection and it’s become my go-to de-stressor. When I come home too exhausted and drained to get any of my own work done, I’ll curl up on the couch with an episode playing in one tab and Pinterest open in another as I search for corresponding recipes. And maybe one day, I’ll actually try them 😉
  8. Candles! I’m an avid collector of candles, but due to dorm life and other life circumstances, I haven’t been able to use them in nearly a decade. And now I can! They were one of the first things I unpacked after the necessities and I’ve had great fun arranging them in a display with my books. And, of course, burning them every chance I get.
  9. Chai and pretty bookish mugs. Y’all knew this was coming eventually! Honestly, what would life be without a good cup of Chai or Irish Breakfast in a geeky mug while you write on a rainy Saturday?
  10. My church. I don’t say it often enough, but I’m so thankful for my church body and great pastor. I’m proud of the ways we have adapted and the ingenuity put into new modes of outreach. One of my favorites is coloring missions! Since we can’t visit nursing homes like usual this holiday season, we’re sending cards with coloring pages and kind notes. Seriously, how brilliant is that?!

Ok, so that’s my thankfulness list. What are a few things on yours?

Surviving the Quarantine

Hi everyone! Wow, can things change fast! In the space of a week people have fallen ill, businesses have closed, schools are out indefinitely, the stores are empty, and everyone is going stir-crazy. And since it’s been a while since my last post, I figured today was an opportune moment to make one. So, here are some tips on surviving the quarantine from this previously home schooled introvert 😉

Set a schedule.

While sleeping and watching Netflix all day may sound awesome at first, I promise you will be miserable if you keep it up too long. It’s ok to give yourself a dead day here and there, but even this bookworm needs more than reading for three weeks straight 😉 Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eat at regular intervals, and give yourself a list of goals for each day. If you don’t accomplish them all, that’s fine. Just give it your best shot.

Stay active.

If you can still get outside, DO IT! Seriously, fresh air and sunshine do wonders. If you can’t leave the house, be creative. Have a dance party. Go old school with an aerobics video. (My mom did these when I was a kid and I seriously thought it was a great game 😛 ) Awaken your inner child and play tag. Or stay low-key and walk laps around the house. No matter what you choose to do, make sure you are getting out of that chair several times a day.

Calm your mind.

With all the stress and panic flying around, you need time to decompress. Having a few productive goals for each day is great, but be sure to give yourself some downtime too. Put on soothing music. Color a picture. Read a book. Take a bath. Set aside some time to take a deep breath and just be.

Try a new hobby.

Is there something you’ve been wanting to learn, but never had the time for? Well, now’s the perfect time to start! Thanks to the magic of YouTube tutorials, I’ve taught myself many things over the years. Grab a pen and sketch the first thing that comes to mind. Try your hand at baking. The stores may be empty, but that baking isle hasn’t been touched. (I know, I’ve checked 😉 ) Or maybe martial arts is more your style. You can always beat up on a pillow, right? Whatever that hidden dream is, don’t put it off any longer.

Check in on friends & family.

This is the age of technology! Why let it go to waste? Your extroverts are slowly dying inside and your introverts would like to say hi now and then. And this is a particularly bad time for those suffering from depression or other mental illness. Let them know they’re not forgotten! Video chat with your friends. Offer to do a food run for your grandparents or an elderly neighbor. Play a board game with your family. Social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t still have community.

Ultimately, remember God is in control.

The one most important thing you can do right now is pray. Pray for the ill and at risk. Pray for those loosing their jobs, those without food or shelter. Pray for those in charge, that they will be given wisdom to make the right decisions. Pray for those working in the medical field, that they will stay safe and a cure will be found quickly. When you don’t know what to say, just pray. God already knows it all.

I know it feels like the world has gone mad and your life will never be the same, but hang in there. This has happened before and it will happen again, but I promise you it’s going to get better. If anyone needs prayer or encouragement, I’m only a comment away.

Looking Back but Moving Forward

Happy 2020, everyone! I’m not too late for a New Year’s post, am I? 😉

As we enter not only a new year but also a new decade, I’m looking back on my accomplishments… and I have to say, there’s a part of me that’s disappointed. There are so many things I had intended to do by now that never happened. I didn’t think I’d still be living at home, for one. But when I think about it, I’ve done several things I never thought I’d get the chance do to, either. So, instead of focusing on the negative, today I’m going to list my top three accomplishments from the past decade.

  1. I graduated both high school and college with honors. And made some amazing friends while I was there 🙂 Hello, Suspects, I miss y’all!
  2. I joined a church that’s truly on fire for God and have attended the Italy mission trip twice!
  3. I not only wrote a book, but have gone to conference and pitched it. This is something I honestly thought I’d never do. I doubted my ability as a writer through most of my teen years and it has taken a lot of encouragement from dear friends for me to reach the place I’m at today. So Sven, Ivy, Amanda, and all my Realmies, if you are reading this, I just want to say a big thank you!
  4. And Bonus: I got my first story published!

Now, that’s a list I can be proud of! And one I’ve kept in mind as I determine my goals moving forward. There are all the usual New Year’s Resolutions, of course: be more active, eat healthier, finish that cross stitch I’ve had since I was ten… But my top three goals for the year are these:

  1. Move out. And I do have a few nebulous possibilities for this!
  2. Indie publish (aka. self-publish) To Slay a Curse. I know it will be a lot of work, but I just feel that’s the right path for me. And I can’t wait to start this adventure and share my work with the world!
  3. Build relationships. This includes staying in touch with old friends, strengthening friendships I’ve made since moving to Cape Girardeau, and stepping out of my comfort zone to meet new friends. It’s daunting, but will be worth it in the end!

So, tell me, what is your biggest accomplishment of the 2010’s (or just 2019)? What is your biggest goal moving into 2020?

Real Rae

This post is going to be a bit different. It’s going to get real and gritty, but hold on. There’s light at the end!

Here you first see me on my way to visit family. I had a wonderful time and felt great. I love showing off this side of myself.

But then you see the side of me I like to hide. The side that battles chronic exhaustion due to various health issues. The side that straight up throws a tantrum (only on occasion) when her alarm goes off. The side who’s one goal is to survive work so she can go sleep the rest of the day. The side who pays for a day or two of fun with up to a week of Complete and Utter Exhaustion Mode, then comes out of it stressing over all the catching up she has to do.

But I think, that’s part of why I have enjoyed working on To Slay a Curse so much. Giselle’s quest to kill Devoron, this curse monster who lives within her mind, whom no one can see but has utter control of her life, has been so cathartic. And the best part is, she doesn’t do it alone. She has friends who stand by her, who show her she’s worth it, who remind her she is strong when she feels so weak.

So, for all my friends out there battling illness (be it physical, mental, or emotional), this is for you. On those days when you are certain you can’t do it. When you feel like your life is meaningless and all you want to do is go home and cry, remember this: you are strong, and you are worth it, and you are loved, and you are never alone. 
God’s got this. So take a breath, take a nap, eat some chocolate, and try again. Your Devoron can be beaten. He is beaten every time you refuse to give up. He is beaten every time you smile through the pain. He is beaten every time you laugh with a friend. So don’t give up: don’t let him win. And I’ll be right there with you, fighting on.