Birthing My Book: Bringing Delight in Disorder to Life

Having conceived and nurtured a memoir for almost a year, only to have it soundly rejected, it felt much like a miscarriage. I went a year without writing a word. It was only when I enrolled in an intensive discipleship training program that I again started to bring words to life, or, more accurately, let the Word come to life by cultivating the soil of stories.

Still, I wasn’t ready to come back to my memoir. It was too personal, too painful, too raw. Instead, I moved onto fiction – drafting a trilogy of short stories – “Life,” “Liberty,” and “The Pursuit of Happiness.”  More than the quality of the narrative (which is still quite unfinished), the discipline of daily writing as I created characters, developed dialogue, and polished plot, gave me increasing confidence that I had a “way with words.”

Then a very tragic thing happened. A young man I had never met committed suicide. He was playing family board games one minute and the next he was in his room shooting himself. The young man’s name was Matthew, son of Rick Warren renowned pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the best-selling Purpose-Driven Life.

My initial reaction was to take to my bed. I didn’t get up for three days. I read what people within the church and outside of it were saying. Some of it trying to be nice and compassion. Some of it downright ugly and mean. Nearly all of it lacking a clear Biblical understanding of mental illness that would drive a person to suicide.

I decided I needed to re-write my memoir. I also knew I couldn’t do it alone. I shared the idea with Leanne Sype, a blogging friend and editor, to whom I had pitched my trilogy. Very soon, she became as passionate about the project as I did. With Leanne’s help, I worked through a second draft, and a third (and in some cases fourth and fifth). With Leanne’s guidance, I pitched it to an agent and went to a writer’s conference to see about pursuing conventional publishing.

We prayed for a clear sign and got it almost immediately. A resounding no. Undeterred, Leanne encouraged me to pursue self-publishing, helped me navigate around some shark-invested waters of vanity publishers. She introduced me to graphic artist Nicole Miller who also has a heart for the Lord and a distinct eye for graphic design. Soon, we had a book cover. Nicole then moved on to a video for our indiegogo campaign where we exceeded our goal.

Along came another young faithful servant, Christina Tarabochia, who took the text and shaped it into various formats uploaded at Smashwords (and soon, for Amazon and Barnes & Noble). Christina helped explain some of the technical aspects of getting our book in the hands of the readers and has been an invaluable resource.

Now that we have a downloadable e-book (soon to be in print), we are only entering another season of the larger “Delight in Disorder” mission. Over the past few days I have been contacted mental health and church leaders from across the country to help us spread the word — to bridge the distance between faith and mental illness. I’ve already received two speaking invitations and am building some very fruitful relationships.

Much has been done — Facebook author page, Twitter account (indy_tony), media kit, business card design, e-mail and phone contact) and much remains to be done (website upgrade, speaking engagements, reviews). I have no idea where God will lead now that the book has been birthed. I only pray I’ll do my part to be a faithful stewardship of the Word calling me to share divine delight in the disorder of the world.

Write your favorite scripture on a canvas for your dorm room. It fills up wall space and it will be a good encouragement.

Our Delightful Indiegogo Campaign

The indiegogo campaign for our mission Delight in Disorder is now officially over and it has been a great blessing, in many ways.

First, the numbers …

Our indiegogo site has had 615 views, so word about the mission has spread and will continue to spread.

29 contributions (ranging from $25-330) were invested in the project.

We exceeded our mission goal of $2000, with a total of $2,190.

Next, the testimonies

I contributed to Delight in Disorder because a) I want to support Tony, and b) I am working to make mental illness less of a stigma.  Having worked in the mental health field, I realize that, like cancer, mental illness hits people from all walks of life, all ages and backgrounds.  Knowledge, awareness, and compassion are really called for here.  I hope you will contribute to Tony’s worthwhile cause –Debb Stanton, http://thesunshinefactor.net/

I’ve really been moved by Tony’s writing on his blog as he shares so honestly, humbly, and often humorously his experience with his mental illness and his faith.  I believe Tony has an important contribution to make to the church in teaching us about life with bipolar, from the inside, with a faith perspective. — Joy F.

After reading a draft copy of “Delight in Disorder,” it was my privilege to be able contribute both financially and prayerfully to the publishing of Tony’s book. Having suffered from depression in the past myself, and been treated less than sympathetically by those within the church, I knew there was a great need to bridge the gap between sufferers of a mental illness and the ones who should be showing the greatest compassion and understanding. Tony’s book does this. It is an honest, warts-and-all story of his ongoing struggle with Bipolar disorder. It is my ongoing prayer that God will use this book to encourage those suffering from Bipolar or any form of mental illness, promote compassion and understanding within the faith community and bring glory to His name.  – Lyn C – Sydney, Australia

Tony’s testimony of God’s faithfulness and love to him in the midst of his disorder will  greatly encourage those who read it.  This is not a “here’s how you do it” book, but a “here’s how God really did it” book. I hope it opens the eyes and hearts of God’s people to follow God’s lead in ministering to hurting people.   – Gary M.

Finally, the lives touched

 I just spent the morning getting to know a gal who is in the trenches of a heavy spiritual battle at this very moment. She’s fresh out of drug rehabilitation, looking at incarceration from past choices that she’s trying to clear up, and going to counseling with her non-medicated bipolar husband, all while FULLY knowing the Lord and clinging desperately to his promises and his will for her life… I was actually able to mention Delight in Disorder to her and share a little bit about the book and the mission. I showed her just the video on the campaign page and she started to cry. It’s already touching lives, my dear.  (message sent to my editor)

I appreciate what you’re doing with this ministry you’ve started. We have a son who has battled depression on and off since late elementary and sadly the church has sometimes been the last place we wanted to talk about it!  Keep up the good work—the church needs your message as much as the “disordered”! – Pam L.

The message from Tony’s story has moved me to reflect on my journey with my eating disorder, to remember how God saved me from death and to see how God continually pulls me back from the ledge. I had never thought about why God keeps doing that. Because He delights in me. Even in my disorder. Leanne Sype

So what happens now?

As grateful as we are for the blessing of the indiegogo campaign, we know that God has blessed us to be a blessing to others. We have much to do. In the coming weeks, we will be finalizing the text to submit for publication.  As advance copies become available, we will first honor our commitment to our contributors and then recruit key book reviewers to whom we can send copies to help spread the word.  We will seek out marketing consultation to determine how best to release the book so it gets in the hands of as many as God intends. Before long, we will be making arrangements for a book tour beginning in March, 2014.

What can you do to help?

1) Pray for the Delight in Disorder mission.  The indiegogo campaign was just the first step in what we pray will be a long and fruitful journey.

2) Follow our progress.  The best way to do this would be to “like” my Facebook author page – https://www.facebook.com/awaywithwordsforyou .

3) Stay in touch.  Share your stories and perspectives of faith and mental illness.   (My e-mail is tony@awaywithwordsforyou.com.)

We’re off to a great start in our journey.  May God bless us all along the way.

book cover 1thumbnail image

A Living Promise (from Delight in Disorder)

This is my comfort in my affliction,

         that your promise gives me life. (Psalm 119:50)

It is so easy when our lives are off balance to lose hope for a better tomorrow.  As we look around at present reality, we are tempted to give up and give in to the voices telling us things will always be just as miserable as they are right now.

In college, when I “came clean” and stopped using the illicit drugs that were in essence holding my psychotic symptoms at bay (yet costing me mental stability), I hit what many addicts call a “rock bottom,” I was living alone in a downtown apartment, lying on a used mattress on the floor, working a job stuffing millions of plastic bags into cardboard boxes.  I had nothing but time on my hands to look within myself and look around and wonder just what I was going to do with my life.  I was lost.  I felt miserable.  And alone.

Then I started reading the Bible.  Again, but like it was the first time.  The promise of God’s Word is that the life we often settle for is so much less than the abundant life we are promised in Christ.  New life is experienced in the person of Jesus Christ, in his healing touch and saving hand.  In a world filled with broken promises, this is a promise we can rely on – now and forever.

New life in the resurrection of Christ is more than just a pie-in-the-sky hope for a future resting place for our disembodied souls called “heaven.” The new life we gain in Christ impacts how we live each day, each moment.  Our lives, even as we go through ups and downs, become more abundant, richer, more full of purpose and meaning.  Life begins to make delightful sense in the midst of the messy disorder within and around us.

With this hope in hand, I began to make the most of the present and envision a better future.  I left the factory and did a summer mission stint in a Christian community in South Georgia called Koinonia (Greek for “fellowship” or “communion”).  Time I had spent escaping with drugs I now spent communing with God and others through prayer and worship.  Instead of packing plastic, I was planting vegetables.   Instead of isolating myself on an assembly line, I built relationships with children in Bible study and older adults over community meals.

The promise for better days ahead in Christ, when properly received, does not cause us to give up and let the world go to pot.  Quite the opposite.  Knowing that God cares deeply about redemption, restoration, resurrection, and renewal, we can look beyond ourselves and join God at work making the world a better place – for generations to come.

Working at Koinonia did not magically heal me of past hurts or remove present temptations.  But while I was there, God set me on a course of away from seeking self-comfort to looking to serve others.  I’ve taken many detours along the road, but I’m still moving forward towards that heavenly fellowship, that divine communion, the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

thumbnail imageVisit our mission site and help us reach our goal by 11/20!

Share “Delight in Disorder” with the World

Having served in ministry with madness, I now have a mission.  And I can use your help.

Help me share Delight in Disorder with the world.

Delight in Disorder is a resource we have long needed. We all need to hear from people who have struggled with mental illness and have found, indeed, that nothing can separate us from God’s great and redeeming love. This book is honest about the experience of living with bipolar disorder, and it’s full of compassion toward the many people whose own moods betray them so treacherously. It’s also full of hope—not the cheap kind we use to varnish over the truth about ourselves and about this life we live. But the only kind of hope that can stand when everything else falls: hope in Christ and his grace.  Amy Simpson — Author, Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission

We are on a mission to share the hope of Christ with people who, like me, wrestle with mental illness.  Our mission is also to foster the compassion of Christ within the faith community towards those that have often been  like bruised reeds broken by false accusations and wrongful judgments.

To find out more about our mission and, as the Spirit leads, offer your support, go to our indiegogo site by clicking on the following link –

May you be blessed as you are a blessing,
book cover 1

For Hurting Hearts and Barely Burning Spirits

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my Spirit upon him;

he will bring justice to the nations.

He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,

or make it heard in the street;

a bruised reed he will not break,

and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;

he will faithfully bring forth justice. (Isaiah 42:1-3)

The prophet Isaiah portrays God’s chosen One – the coming Messiah – as one who will set things straight in such a way that no undue harm is done – no “collateral damage” (to borrow a terrible euphemism). He brings justice to the nations faithfully not through fanatical force, but through spiritual sacrifice.

When Jesus of Nazareth entered Jerusalem, people formed a spontaneous parade — waving palm branches and crying out “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9). They believe Jesus was their kind of Messiah – one who would lead an army to conquer Roman rule with military might and re-establish Israel as God’s kingdom on earth.

But the kingdom of Christ was not of this world. His mission was not to overthrow a government and his method was not to kill. His mission was to release captive hearts and his method was to die.

God does not force faith on anyone. God knows our hearts are like bruised reeds, our spirits like faintly burning wicks.  Instead of compelling us to believe and thereby destroying our souls, God gently offered up His son to accept the punishment for our sin. Christ died so we might live.

As we begin our Delight in Disorder mission in the coming days, it is essential to keep Christ’s Messianic mission and method firmly in our minds.  People with mental illnesses have been bruised by false accusations and wrongful judgments not just from the world, but from Christians as well. The Bible has been used as a weapon against already deeply wounded souls — and there has been terrible harm done in the name of Christ.

Please pray with me that our Delight in Disorder mission would bring the the healing of Christ and not break hurting hearts or quench barely burning spirits.

Jesus
from Ethelyn

“Troubled Minds” Author Endorses “Delight in Disorder”

I’ve been on quite a roller-coaster ride as we move closer to the indiegogo campaign (very soon) and publication (March, 2014) of my spiritual memoir Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission.   Last night I was telling my sister I had been cycling emotionally as well as craving alcohol.  By God’s grace and with prayer from friends and family, I’ve managed to stay safe, clean, and sober.  Yet, I’ve been fretting over many things, fearing that all I and others are investing in the mission might come to naught.

This morning when I checked my in-box, I noticed there was a message from Amy Simpson.

In 2012, Intervarsity Press published Simpson’s book Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission in which she shares the story of her mother, who has schizophrenia and the Church failed to respond to her needs or the needs of the family.  Troubled Minds offers a ray of hope in the end, highlighting a few church ministries across the country where there is some openness to folks with mental illnesses, but largely Simpson’s voice is a prophetic one — the Church is called in Christ to do more.

After reading Troubled Minds, I was inspired to write to Ms. Simpson first to thank her for sharing her story.  She very thoughtfully responded.  I then boldly asked if she might read my manuscript and consider offering an endorsement.  She graciously accepted.

Today, I received her response, with the following endorsement attached –

Delight in Disorder is a resource we have long needed. We all need to hear from people who have struggled with mental illness and have found, indeed, that nothing can separate us from God’s great and redeeming love. This book is honest about the experience of living with bipolar disorder, and it’s full of compassion toward the many people whose own moods betray them so treacherously. It’s also full of hope—not the cheap kind we use to varnish over the truth about ourselves and about this life we live. But the only kind of hope that can stand when everything else falls: hope in Christ and his grace.  

Yes, it has been a roller-coaster ride.  A delightful one.  And it’s only just begun.

I thank you, Ms. Simpson.  And I praise God from whom all blessings flow.

A Habitat Prospect

habitat for humanity

While browsing through the job postings sent to me by Indeed.com, I was drawn to a position for a “Marketing Communication Coordinator” with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Indianapolis.

My history with Habitat goes back to a summer internship I spent in Americus, Georgia at a place called Koinonia Farm.  Koinonia is a mission community founded by Clarence and Florence Jordan with some missionary friends – the Englands.  It was a place in the Deep South (before the Civil Rights era) where whites and blacks worked side by side as partners.  They shared their resources and introduced enhanced farming methods.

Somewhere in the 1970s, a disenchanted millionaire left behind his goods and moved to Koinonia.  There, with the spiritual friendship of Jordan and other Koinonia Partners, Millard Fuller conceived of what has now become an international organization to help build and provide homes at low cost for people of lower incomes – Habitat for Humanity.

While I haven’t worked much on Habitat projects over the years, I have followed their progress.  When I was a pastor in Upstate New York, a Habitat committee consulted me about a family they were reviewing for potential selection as owners.  I was thrilled to visit the family on their moving day and watch them become vibrant members of the community and church.

One other time, the church I was serving received an un-designated bequest and was led to tithe (give 10%) to worthy mission projects.  Habitat was a unanimous selection and we were glad to help them further meet their goals.

So, I eagerly sent an e-mail with my resume and a recommendation attached to the contact person with Habitat.  While they are advertising for a full-time candidate, I’m hoping my experience, skills, and willingness to work my way into the job doing an internship will work in my favor.  It’s certainly a worthy cause I would be honored to support.

Update:  I got a nice e-mail from the hiring director at Habitat informing me that the position had been filled.  I sent a reply thanking her for her personal response, indicating I still would like to support Habitat’s efforts in the coming years.  After I have a better sense of where my internship search is headed, I hope to contact Habitat back and see what help I can be.

(for more on job leads, check out “5 Reasons a Former Pastor Would Make an Excellent Copywriter“)

(photo of “Habitat for Humanity” sweatshirt from colincookman, some rights reserved)