Schrödinger’s Cancer: My Recent Biopsy and the Reality of Living Death

I’d like to share what I learned during my recent cancer scare, though perhaps I should employ a less dramatic opening, considering the results. I am, after all, perfectly fine. I do not have cancer; and although my situation requires some monitoring, I can now continue with my regularly scheduled life.

Back in October, however, I did not have the benefit of foresight. I had to go through the process one step at a time, without knowing how everything would turn out.

The Test

As I sat in my doctor’s office this fall as she told me I’d need a biopsy, cancer was just a theory.

The whole thing reminded me of Schrödinger’s Cat: you know, that thought experiment with the cat in a sealed box with a decaying radioactive substance, a hammer attached to a Geiger counter, and a flask of poison. Until you actually open the box, you can’t know for sure the fate of the cat. Until the box is unsealed, the cat is both dead and alive.

That’s how I felt. Only this time, I was both outside and inside the box. I was both waiting for a revelation and waiting to be revealed.

Schrödinger’s Cancer

During the wait, I kept thinking that no matter the outcome of the test, the truth was already real in my body. A simple test would not alter reality: it would only reveal it. Therefore while I waited to hear from the lab, I was both sick and well, healthy and ill. This was Schrödinger’s Cancer. Nothing had changed and everything had.

I wasn’t afraid—not exactly. I wasn’t losing sleep or wandering the streets in a haze or holding my breath. I was, however, evaluating my life.

If I really had cancer, why waste energy on minor annoyances? Who cares if the weather isn’t cooperating or if there’s a hair in my sandwich? It takes more than petty problems to rattle the living dead.

Living Death

If anyone is suited to endure a living death, it should be the Christian. It is, after all, our primary calling.

Though the call to follow Jesus is often framed in terms of new birth and everlasting life, the reality is more complicated than that. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer states in The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

The call to follow Christ has always been one of living death.

And [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23)

Consider also how the Apostle Paul calls the church in Rome to understand baptism.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:3-11)

Both dead and alive, alive and dead. Already declared righteous and not yet perfected. This is Schrödinger’s Catechism, if you will, and I had never been more attuned to its paradoxes.

Further Lessons

Apart from the readjusted perspectives mentioned above, I walk away from this experience with increased empathy for those in medical limbo.

While I’ve always been sympathetic and prayed with people waiting for serious test results, I’ve never been able to truly empathize. As a result, I’ve historically offered a brand of buck-up-and-hope-for-the-best and let’s-not-worry-until-we-know optimism that has likely proven unhelpful. I know better now.

I’m also moving forward with the comfort of this Scripture freshly graven on my heart:

For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:8)


Three quick orders of business:

First, my holiday novella Murder on Birchardville Hill is still on sale. Go snap it up!

Second, this week I’m celebrating my 40th birthday! Since I have no material wants or needs, I’m asking you to help celebrate by making contributions to the ministry of my friends Jairo and Vania. Their family will soon head to Jordan to serve displaced Sudanese refugees, and I’d love to send them off well supported. Please see here for information and to make your contribution to their ministry.

Third, remember to sign up for my 2019 Year of Books. Each month during the coming year, I’ll be sending a recommended list of titles for you to check out. No discussions, homework, or anything like that. Just fresh reading recommendations casually delivered to your inbox every month: fiction, non-fiction, classics and new releases, accessible theology, well-known authors and debut writers, you name it. Go sign up!

Happy Monday, everyone! I’m sure it’ll be a busy week for many of you. Don’t forget to slow down and enjoy the delights of the season. May your days be merry and bright, and may all your coffees be flat white.*


*Or whatever you like. Just going for the rhyme, not commanding your coffee choices. But if you haven’t tried a flat white, you definitely should. Consider the recommendation a gift from me to you. Merry Christmas!

Christmas in a Minor Key

On Friday, I played the piano at a memorial service. The interior of the building was already decorated for the season, and we sang against a backdrop of velvet, garlands, and twinkle lights. The experience served as a reminder that while we delight in the gifts of the season, an undertow of sadness often pulls beneath the surface.

Any number of special situations might bar us from experiencing the sort of powdered-snow enchantment of greeting cards and Hallmark movies. While we’re aware deep down that spun-sugar holidays exist only in the realm of imagination, we can’t help but want them for ourselves. Such longings intensify when our pain runs counter to these expectations.

Last week, I wrote elsewhere about what Advent means for believers, and how the Christian discipline of meditating on Christ’s work can shift our approach to this season:

Amid all the festivities, it’s easy to forget that while Advent signaled hope for the human race, it also signaled the beginning of sorrows for our Savior. We suffer during the holidays when  the cultural celebrations hold stronger sway in our hearts than the person and work of the Lord Jesus.

Jesus did not come as Incarnate God to secure the fleeting comforts of the “holiday season.” He was born to suffer and die, rejected and alone, to secure eternal comfort for all saints.

For this reason, I’m thankful for Christian writers, musicians, and artists who create works acknowledging these realities. We follow a nail-scarred Savior through a life of tribulation along a narrow way. Works acknowledging sorrow, suffering, grief, and lament absolutely have a place in the life of the Christian–yes, even during Advent.


Goodness gravy, somehow it’s December already!

Two orders of business:

First, if you haven’t had a chance, be sure to sign up for my 2019 Year of Books!joanna-kosinska-470407-unsplashEach month during the coming year, I’ll be sending a recommended list of fiction and non-fiction titles for you to check out. There won’t be any discussions, homework, or anything like that. Just fresh recommendations casually delivered to your inbox every month: fiction, non-fiction, classics and new releases, accessible theology, well-known authors and debut writers, you name it.

Second, as I was writing this post, I couldn’t help but think about my friend and colleague Stacey Weeks. If you’re the type who likes holiday romances but yearns for something with a bit more substance, Stacey’s new book might be right up your alley. Mistletoe Melody released over the weekend, and one thing I really appreciate is that the storyline acknowledges both physical and emotional pain. I was pleased to get my hands on a pre-publication review copy, and I’m glad this book is now available to everyone.

Finally, I’ve appreciated your patience as my blogging momentum has slowed way down during 2018. As the year draws to a close, I have a few more posts planned. Keep your eyes peeled for some Advent meditations as well as my year-in-review book post, which is currently in draft and spiraling out of control as usual. Because what would this time of year be without its fun traditions?

Happy Monday, everyone! May your coffee be hot and your hearts warm.

Counting All Joy: Thanksgiving, Lament, & 7 Sticky Theological Questions to Ask as We Gather to Give Thanks

I first wrote this list of questions in October of 2016. At that time, the list was titled “7 Sticky Theological Questions to Ask Ourselves in the Wake of Hurricane Matthew (or Any Tragedy).” It was a Sunday morning then, and Hurricane Matthew had just torn through the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm, headed straight for my town. At the last minute, he’d wobbled slightly into the Atlantic, sparing us a direct hit.

Our church family had made their way through streets strewn with debris and downed power lines, praising the Lord that we were able to meet and worship together in our intact church building. At the same time, we were grieving losses of our sisters and brothers in Christ along the storm’s route who had suffered great loss and praying for those in the still-moving storm’s path. Thanksgiving and lament, praise and supplication, all bundled together.

I’ve been revisiting these questions in recent weeks, especially as we’ve moved toward the Thanksgiving holiday. First, for those currently enduring trials, this season can spark complicated emotions. Second, given the link between suffering and spiritual refinement, sometimes I’m not sure what I should actually be thankful for.

While I’m truly glad to be enjoying a measure of health and happiness with my friends and family this week, I’m aware that even when all is not as I would wish it to be, God is worthy of worship regardless.


7 Sticky Theological Questions to Ask as We Gather to Give Thanks

  1. Given the relationship between suffering and Christlikeness, is being spared suffering necessarily a good thing? (1 Peter 2:21-25)
  2. Why would the Father ever spare me suffering–especially since he did not spare his own Son? (Romans 8:31-32)
  3. Do I secretly believe that the people who weren’t spared deserve to suffer in a way that I do not? (Psalm 103:10)
  4. Have I devoted prayer and/or resources for the relief of my sisters and brothers who are currently suffering? (Galatians 6:10)
  5. If I really believe that death will usher me immediately into the presence of Yahweh, why am I so relieved to find myself still here? (Philippians 1:20-26)
  6. Am I praising God’s name because I have escaped suffering or because he is worthy of praise regardless? (Psalm 96)
  7. Would I still be praising his name if I had lost everything? (Job 1:21Job 2:9-10)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)


In Other News

I can’t believe it’s already November–and nearly the end of the month, at that!
Besides keeping the plates spinning at my day job and enjoying a bit of travel, I’ve mostly been absorbed this month with NaNoWriMo. I’m over 22,000 words into the first draft of my next novel, a stand-alone dramedy I’ve had in the works since before Bookmageddon. The drafting pace is a bit frantic, but I’m having a great time developing totally new characters. I’m hoping to have it in front of your beady eyes somewhere in 2020!(Pending publisher acceptance, of course. It’s fine. Totally fine. I’m not even worried about it! *cue screaming*)

Speaking of books, this week two of my 2017 releases will be enjoying Black Friday sales on Amazon. Well, Black Friday-ish Sales. Prices are scheduled to drop over the long weekend; but as ever, the ways of Amazon are unpredictable. Keep your eyes peeled for discounts on the Kindle versions of The Proper Care and Feeding of Singles and Murder on Birchardville Hill, both of which are slated to drop to $.99.

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For all of those celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I wish you a truly wonderful time of rest, reflection, and refreshment. May your turkey be succulent, your family dinners drama-free, and your coffee always within reach.

For Those Who Can Only Handle Being Moderately Creeped Out (2018 Update)

I’ve never been one to enjoy being scared on purpose. I don’t watch horror movies, relish psychological thrillers, or visit haunted houses.

Occasionally, however, on a long fall evening, I will curl up with a book that matches the season; or while out on a late-evening walk, I will listen to something that will creep me out–but only a little.

If you like to cover similar emotional territory, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve been keeping a list for people like us.

Here’s the update.

Books

Bird Box, by Josh Malerman

The author had me right where he wanted me, held captive with nothing but my fear of the unknown propelling me forward. I think I read it in a day, finishing during dinner just before it got dark.

Wildfell, by London Clarke

Creepy Gothic suspense with a modern twist. Romance, travel feels, and things that go bump in the night. Yes, please.

11/22/63, by Stephen King

This isn’t the only Stephen King book I’ve read (his book On Writing is excellent) but it was the first, largely because I was told it “wasn’t too scary.” And it really wasn’t. Just super intense and psychologically twisty. Because…Stephen King.

The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

This is not only a vampire book for people who aren’t into vampire books, but it’s also a creepy book for people who can’t handle creepy books. If that sounds like you, go for it.

Podcasts

Lore, hosted by Aaron Mahnke

I actually gave this one up recently because it started scaring me too badly when I was out running in the early morning or late evening. If I only listened to podcasts from the safety of my home, though, I’d probably still be hooked.

Dr. Death, reported by Laura Beil

Fair warning: this is real life. You may find yourself avoiding medical care after listening to this one.

Happy Face, produced by HowStuffWorks with Melissa Moore

In 1995, Melissa Moore learned that her father was the Happy Face Killer. In this podcast, she reviews her childhood and adolescence, analyzing her life through the lens of this knowledge, understanding her past in a new way. It’s early days still (I’ve only listened up through Episode 3) but can already attest that it’s gripping.

Individual Podcast Episodes

From Stuff You Missed in History: “The Hagley Woods Murder” 

Truth is always creepier than fiction. I mean…who did put Bella in the witch elm?

From This American Life: “House on Loon Lake” 

Enjoy shivering your way through this account of one man’s lifelong obsession with an abandoned house. I first listened while road-tripping home in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm. Perfectly creepy conditions.

From Criminal: “A Bump in the Night” 

What would you do if you realized someone was living in the crawl space above your bedroom…and that he might be in the house right now…? As a single woman who lives mostly alone, I found this true story almost too much to handle.

From Fictional: “Give Him a Hand” 

A creeptastic modern retelling of the classic short story “The Monkey’s Paw.” I first listened one blustery night as I walked through my neighborhood at dusk. Palm branches flailed against low clouds and raindrops dribbled down the back of my neck as I shivered my way through this. I was never happier to get back to the house.


Are you the type who can only handle being moderately creeped out? If so, and you give any of these recommendations a try, do let me know how everything works out. I want all the shivery details.

Also, let me know what my lists are missing! I look forward to hearing your suggestions in the comments below. Remember, only medium creepy suggestions.


Happy October! While the majority of North Americans are enjoying sweaters, scarves, and pumpkin spice coffees, we here in Florida are still just sweating it out, dealing with soaring temperatures and tropical storms.

Whatever the weather, the days are getting shorter, both in terms of daylight and the number of squares left on the calendar in 2018.

So.

Two important notes:

  1. This week my debut novel Collapsible is enjoying a publisher’s discount on all major e-book distribution channels, including Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Kobo. From now until October 17, 2018, the e-book is just $.99–spread the word and snap it up!
  2. Very soon, I’ll be sending out my fall update. It will include news about my writing life, publication updates, planned appearances, and some personal stuff. Be sure you’re signed up so that you don’t miss out.

Happy Monday, everyone! May all your sweaters be cozy, your apple-picking delightful, and your favorite seasonal blend brewed to perfection.

Backstage Pass

In celebration of Collapsible‘s One-Year Bookiversary, I’m here to offer you access to a unique, never-before-published scene which was originally cut from the final draft of the novel.

It’s almost pure comedy, yet because the scene appeared early in the story, my editors thought it best to move the narrative along quickly rather than engage in indulgent silliness so soon. (My words, not theirs.)

They were right, of course, but that didn’t keep me from dying a bit inside when I had to say goodbye to the scene.

When you read it yourself, you’ll understand why.

The Scene

In the scene, which was originally slated to be Chapter 2, the girls race from the gym to the hospital. Ann decides to piggyback Rachel into the emergency room, and things go decidedly wrong. Because of course.

The Deal

Once Collapsible has reached 50+ reviews on Amazon, I’ll be releasing the scene right here on the blog.

Why It Matters

Reviews help consumers make purchasing decisions, of course, but they also move books up in Amazon’s rankings. When that happens, Collapsible will be more likely to be recommended by the algorithm when people purchase similar products. Then everyone wins.

How to Help

If you’ve read Collapsible and haven’t already posted an online review, drop by Amazon’s product page and post a short response. One or two sentences with a handful of stars is really all it takes.

Of course, if you haven’t even read the book yet, you also know what to do.

Let’s get cracking!

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Celebrating Collapsible [Events+Video!]

This week, my debut Collapsible: A Novel of Friendship, Broken Bones, Coffee, Shenanigans, and the Occasional Murder celebrates its first Bookiversary!

Last fall on September 29, 2017, this little gem was first released into the world. I couldn’t have been more vomitously excited.

Join me for a week of events marking this momentous occasion.


Collapsible’s One-Year Bookiversary

Celebrations

Monday – Bookiversary Kickoff & Catch-Up Reading Day

If you’ve been meaning to read Collapsible, or if it’s been a while and you want to brush up on the story before the week’s festivities begin in earnest, today’s your day. Grab a copy and get cracking.

Tuesday – Collapsible-themed Read-and-Tweet-a-Thon

Starting at 3:00pm (EST) and continuing through the evening, I’ll be reading through the novel and live-Tweeting thoughts, insider stories, and favorite lines. I haven’t read the book since final proofs last summer so this will be a treat for all of us. Be sure you’re following me on Twitter to join in.

Wednesday – Books in the Wild

I’ll be posting a thread on Facebook asking for pics of Collapsible going through the day with you. Show us Collapsible in its natural reading habitat! Pictures that earn the most likes will be featured later in the week.

Thursday – Facebook Live Q&A at 4:30pm (EST)

Come with your questions and sassy comments about Collapsible, researching, writing, and whatever else you’d like. It’ll be an open forum. I’m ready! Be sure you’re following me there so you don’t miss out.

Friday –  Backstage Pass

Here on the blog, I’ll be posting information about how you can access a hilarious deleted scene from Collapsible‘s cutting-room floor.

It’s one of my favorite scenes, but because it fell early in the book and didn’t sufficiently advance the plot, my editors suggested its removal before the final cut. Be sure you’re following this blog to learn how you can get it in front of your beady little eyes.

Saturday – Collapsible officially celebrates its one-year bookiversary! 

Keep your eyes peeled for surprise bonus content to drop through Instagram. Be sure you’re following me there to see it!


As you can see, we have lots to look forward to this week. For everyone who’s already read the book, thank you so much. For everyone who’s intending to, thank you in advance. I know there are many great books out there. I’m grateful you’re spending some time on mine.


Happy Bookiversary, everyone! Settle in, brew a cup of coffee, and enjoy this dramatic reading from Chapter 1. (LOL, that close-up, though!)

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Bookmageddon: Confessions of a Survivor

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Recently while I was having a leisurely lunch with friends, one of them said, “You know, you’re a lot more relaxed now that your books are out.”

No kidding. A year ago this time, I was a wreck.

I blame Bookmageddon.

Bookmageddon Explained

After having written four books in four years and submitting proposals nonstop without many publication nibbles, I finally signed two traditional publishing contracts: one for a trilogy of frothy novels, and the other for a non-fiction book.

I wrote another little novella in celebration, quickly received a contract on that one as well, and then discovered that all five books were slated to release within six months of each other.

I called it BOOKMAGEDDON.

Bookmageddon Experienced

One year ago this time, I was actively preparing for the release of my first novel (Collapsible) while proofing galleys of two other books (The Proper Care and Feeding of Singles and Murder on Birchardville Hill) and doing rounds of edits on the other two (Flexible and Unbreakable).

As a new author, I’d never done a book launch in my life, and I was trying to get five books finalized simultaneously while holding down a day job and maintaining a semblance of a personal life. Add to that the disruption of a major hurricane (Irma) and you have a fair idea of what went down.

Bookmageddon Evaluated

I’ll never complain about the miracle of suddenly receiving publication contracts on five books after years of absolute rejection. But you won’t necessarily hear me recommending Bookmageddon-style releases, either.

During the height of my Bookmageddon workload, I was rising in the wee hours of the morning to fit in work before my day job and then investing a few more hours of work after work. Meanwhile, emotionally, it was all I could do to keep myself together.

The external pressure of deadlines was compounded by the internal stress of finalizing the latter books in a series without knowing how the first would be received. The stress of comparing the style of my fifth book to my first and knowing there was a noticeable skills gap; then lying awake at night convinced that no one would actually notice the gap because no one outside my immediate family was likely to buy or read my books anyway.

All was vanity and vexation of spirit.

Good times.

Beyond Bookmageddon

Once all the behind-the-scenes work and emotional hand-flapping was done and I could sit back and let the books roll out, Bookmageddon wasn’t so bad. The release days themselves were anticlimactic.

When asked if I’d ever do anything like Bookmageddon again, I have to laugh. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever have five unpublished manuscripts stacked up again; but if I do, and if Bookmageddon 2 is the only way to get them in front of your beady eyes, I’d consider it.


For those who have asked, I am working on a new book.

The first draft is done, the manuscript is now in the re-writing phase, and I’m working on finding it the perfect publishing home. Though it wasn’t a good fit for the publishers who took a chance on my Bookmageddon titles, I’m optimistic that we will have publication news early in 2019. (Sign up here to be among the first to know.)

In other news, since Collapsible will celebrate its one-year Bookiversary on September 29, next week’s blog post will be packed with bonus content. So we all have that to look forward to!

Happy Monday, y’all! May your spirits rise like the steam from your coffee.