Birthing My Book: From Conception to Miscarriage

Finger  Lakes Country. An hour or two from Rochester.

On June 13, 2009, I was driving along the scenic shores of the Finger Lakes region of New York wondering what I was going to do with my life.  I was 45.  I had spent most of the last two decades serving as a pastor while battling bipolar disorder. At my best, I had time and energy left to enjoy family life with my wonderful wife and four beautiful children.  At my worst, I either laid under the covers in a dark bedroom or frantically pursued plans ill-conceived and left undone.  I looked out the window and prayed for vision.

Suddenly, it came to me. I would write a book about bipolar and the faith that either fuels us to distraction or saves us from self-destruction.  In less than 20 miles, I conceived of a collection of devotions, inspired by the Psalms and a title — from Sheol to the Highest Heavens: 101 Devotions for Persons with Bipolar (and those who love them).  By the time I pulled into the driveway, I had most of the introduction in mind (which has remained largely the same), and some thoughts on one devotion (which is now the “Epilogue”).

Over the course of the next six months, I poured through the Psalms and wrote 1-3 devotions a day.  Some days as I felt like working more, I would re-write earlier devotions.  By early 2010, I had a manuscript I just knew would be embraced by countless publishers.  I bought a copy of the Christian Writer’s Market Guide, found 15 publishers I felt were appropriate and sent out quickly composed queries.

I waited.  And waited.  And waited.

Out of the 15 queries I sent out, I received a total of one response – a two sentence form e-mail.

It was as if I had a miscarriage.

I stuffed the manuscript in my chest-of-drawers under a pile of junk mail, unfolded underwear and mis-matched socks.

I didn’t write another word for over a year.

The Bible says, “Without vision, people perish.”  I was dying on the vine.  My mind was consumed with grief which actually felt a lot like nothingness.  Each day, I sat in my recliner and stared at the ceiling.  At night, I slept fitfully, listening to BBC radio through my pillow speaker — a reminder at least that life went on — somewhere.

Meanwhile, my wife was fed up.  Understandably.  Here we were, living on a fruitful homestead, financially secure, with four adorable children and nothing to do but delight in the Lord and love one another.  What was wrong with me?

I tried many things – counseling, gardening, volunteering, working with men from the church.  Something was still not right.  We searched our minds for an answer. Was I over-medicated? Did my overdose damage my brain? Or the E.C.T.? Was it my illness? Or just me?

Only God knew.  And for some reason, God was not giving us the answer.

(image above from Jenny Russo)

In the Heart of the Finger Lakes: My Life with (and without) God – Part VII

Seneca Lake by Pak Gwei

 

I heard of a church in New York

Searching for a pastor.

It was just two towns over from Alice’s parents.

I wasn’t looking to leave, but the location seemed perfect.

We went through the process and a call was confirmed.

 

Ovid rests between the two largest fingers of the Finger Lakes.

If you climb the church steeple, you can see

Cayuga Lake to the north and

Seneca Lake to the west.

 

I was the only pastor in town,

So I became the village vicar.

We ran a Thrift Shop where you could get any item of clothing

For less than a buck.

We housed the Food Pantry where you could get a week’s worth of groceries

For free.

 

People came for prayer and stayed for service.

I led a 12-step Bible study group at a local addiction treatment center.

I cheered on the basketball teams,

And went to the school plays.

 

My devotion to ministry fueled

My commitment as a father.

We homeschooled Sarah and Grace.

I kept the shelves stocked

With the best books I could find.

We wrote our own stories, went camping,

Danced in the park, attended plays.

 

My journals from our Ovid years show shortcomings,

Spiritual and relational struggles that kept it from being

Paradise on Earth.

But when God created the earth, He didn’t call it great.

He called it good.  And then He rested.

 

 

The story begins…

Out of Nineveh: My Life with (and without) God – Part I

Sent to Serve: My Life with (and without) God – Part II

Prayer, Parenting, Pits, and Pills: My Life with (and without) God – Part III

A Clarion Call: My Life with (and without) God – Part IV

Alone in a Fog: My Life with (and without) God – Part V

On a Teeter-Totter: My Life with (and without) God – Part VI

The story continues…

Chosen to Adopt: My Life with (and without) God – Part VIII

Lost on Long Island: My Life with (and without) God – Part IX

 

(image “Seneca Lake” from Pak Gwei, some rights reserved.)