Hard Knocks

Below are my words from a recent online interview asking about the road to becoming an author.

I do give God all the glory for any success I’ve achieved. I was the worst student and a super rebellious teen. One morning in Homeroom, I made the incredibly unwise decision to both run away from home and drop out of school. I had to support myself somehow so I got a job working third shift at Waffle House. I’ve worked a lot of crazy places since but to this day Waffle House is still the craziest of them all. There was never any shortage of drama or danger working from nine at night until seven in the morning. My spoiled, naive, seventeen-year-old self loved to dive into both! Waffle House turned out to be my school of Hard Knocks and as hard as it was and as much as I complained through all six years, I’m glad to have experienced it. Waffle House taught me to work hard, how to deal with the public, and probably the most important lesson to date, how to use shame to my advantage.

After six years at Waffle House, I married my first husband. The marriage lasted five years and was very abusive. Shame is the word that comes to mind when I think of my teens and twenties. School was too much for me, my peers were too much for me, my family was too much for me, marriage was too much for me, and I also had a dark secret of bulimia I hid from the world that I’d been dealing with since I was fourteen. To me, to be an alcoholic or a drug addict was more acceptable in society than someone who couldn’t stop throwing up their food after they ate. But I couldn’t stop no matter how hard I tried. I didn’t know it back then, but the bulimia was a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that runs in my family. These disorders “flare up” with trauma, hormonal change, and just big life changes in general. This is why the bulimia only got worse and worse after dropping out of school, running away, and moving into an abusive household. At twenty-six, my life was completely out of control and the shame was so bad it felt like I had a piano permanently strapped to my back. There finally came a time when I found myself at death’s door and as a reach for survival, I ran away again and divorced my ex-husband. Of course, this was yet another trauma and the bulimia got even worse but at least now I didn’t have someone living with me who I was constantly disappointing because of it. I wish I could tell you there was a point during all of this that I saw the light and everything took a turn for the better. But I didn’t and things were hard for years after.

A month before I turned thirty, I had my son. How glorious and terrifying this was! He was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I had immeasurable love for him and yet immeasurable fear that something terrible would happen to this little baby that had my heart. Now I know that this was the result of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder triggered yet again by the hormonal change of pregnancy. But back then, I was convinced that tragedy was about to happen at any moment. I didn’t get help, I spent three years loving my son and watching him grow even though I had a constant pit in my stomach that something terrible was about to happen. Still unaware that these intrusive thoughts and feelings were abnormal in any way, I had my daughter in September of 2016. Just like my son, she was absolutely breathtaking, the sweetest baby…I fell off the deep end mentally. About six months postpartum, I started having visions and terrible dreams. In my mind, the feelings and thoughts that something terrible was going to happen were premonitions. My mind was constantly triggering fight-or-flight and my body was breaking down. I couldn’t drive without having to pull over at some point because the dizziness was so bad. I couldn’t get through a shower. My face and arms were constantly going numb. I fixated on a cough that never went away. I had tremors and blurry vision. Every day there seemed to be a new symptom just different enough to make me wonder if this time it was a real stroke or heart attack. Every day was so difficult because my brain was eating me alive.

After a year of this, I had no choice but to get help somehow. I couldn’t work or be the wife and mother my family needed because of the daily multiple panic attacks. My current husband was as supportive as it gets but he still had no idea what to do. He gave me a list of the mental health providers on our insurance plan. Sarah Beth Wheeler was close to our house so I made an appointment having no idea if it was going to help or not. It turned out that this was the Light. This is when it was all going to turn around.
God in His grace led me to the best therapist and a great doctor that prescribed medication for the anxiety. The medication stopped the terrible physical anxiety symptoms and even the binge urges that I’d been experiencing for twenty years! With this grounding, I was able to learn from Sarah Beth about the nature of OCD and how to examine my thoughts and sort them out. It took a good year of therapy and medication but this is what God used to heal me! Working on mental illness is not easy, but I will tell you it’s a heck of a lot better than remaining mentally ill! I look back at my time with Sarah Beth as one of the best years of my life.

Backing up a bit, during that year of healing, I began writing middle grade novels. I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, The Chronicles of Narnia, and anything by Roald Dahl. I had this story in my mind that I would escape to every day when my daughter took a nap. A mental vacation! Before I knew it, I’d written a whole book. Me, the bulimic, divorced, high school dropout had written a book! I don’t know if it was then or after finishing my second novel, or maybe the third, that I realized that my title was no longer Bulimic, Divorced, High School Dropout. I was a wife, a mom, an author!
And best yet, I was a New Creation.

Maybe it was this feeling of being “brand new” that influenced my decision to write my novels under a pen name. I chose J. Reese Bradley—it sounded so authorly! J. Reese Bradley has published two books, Brumbletide and the Daughter of Eve and Brumbletide and the Changing of the Crowns. The third in the series, Brumbletide and the Triad Champion is finished and will release in 2022.

Further Up and Further In!

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”
― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Have you read the last book of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle? If not, you must! In my opinion, it is one of the most underrated books. I will not tell you much about it here because it’s too good to spoil. The only thing I am going to discuss from it today is the concept of “further up and further in.” The quote above is said by the unicorn when he first sees the new Narnia, Alsan’s Country.

Most of us do not enjoy the thought of dying. We probably don’t really even enjoy the thought of going to Heaven if It means leaving the things we enjoy about our life here on earth. This is because we have yet to go further up and further in. How does one do that? The answer is to abide.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
John 15:4

John 15 is such an important chapter because it tells us how to grow in our faith, works, and love of the Lord. And it isn’t difficult at all. Just like a branch clings to the vine, all we need to do is cling to Christ!

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:5

Cling to Christ and He will bear fruit in and through you! And not just any fruit, the Fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:23

This fruit bearing happens here and now on earth. You don’t have to wait until Heaven. As long as sin is in the world, there is going to be tribulation here, but Christ in you will not only help you bear it all but will actually make the world a better place. This is because being a more loving, joyful, peaceful, kind, good, patient, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled person will not only be good for the person but for those around them too. Think how the world would be if we had millions and millions of people clinging to Christ and bearing the Fruit of the Spirit. It would almost be Heaven!

So how to cling?

In case isn’t clear, the clinging is the abiding of John 15. And the way to abide is to read your Bible and pray continually. In other words, seek the Lord with all you’ve got.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

Why do I have to read the Bible? Can’t I just pray all the time? No. Read the Bible. It is God’s words to us. We speak to God with words, He speaks to us through the Bible. It’s a conversation! It isn’t too hard for you. War is hard. Childbirth is hard. Reading the Bible is not hard. And when you do open it and read it, maybe start with the book of Ezra to see an example of how important Gof thinks it is for His people to read His Word. But make sure to keep reading from there. It doesn’t matter where you start, just read it! I listened to sermons and did devotionals for years but never read the Bible. I knew a lot of things to say to hold up a conversation with another believer but the depth of what Christ did for me on the cross had not penetrated my heart and I was not regenerated. There is something about actual Scripture that opens our eyes and changes us. That something is that Scripture is alive and active.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

The words of Hebrews 4:12 are true. But you have to experience it for yourself. It’s like a having a baby. Before you are a parent, everyone tells you how the love you have for your baby is different than anything you’ve ever felt before. You can try to imagine it, and you can even like the idea, but until you actuall have the baby you don’t really know. Open your Bible right now and you’ll be on your way to understanding the Narnian Unicorn, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”

And don’t forget to pray.

Pray without ceasing.
1 Thessalonians 5:17

Pray to God your worries, pray to God your thanks, and pray to God His words too. Praying Scripture brings you so close to God. Here’s how to do it. Let’s say you are in John 15 that we were discussing before,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:1-5

Pray John 15:1-5 to God by saying somethng like, “Thank for being our True Vine and our Vinedresser. Thank you for pruning me to bear more fruit, and thank you for making me clean. I know I can’t bear the Fruit of the Spirit by myself, I need you to bear it through me. Please let me to continue to abide in you always. Let me seek you with my whole heart. Amen”

Read your Bible and pray as much as you possibly can. And don’t forget to go to a sound church to gather together with other believers. You won’t believe the difference this will make. Little by little you will know Christ more and more. And eventually you will actually want to see Him in Heaven! How many of us like the thought of Heaven after death but couldn’t care less if Jesus was there or not? But Jesus is the point, and He’s a good point. He’s not safe, but He’s good.

Sure, the thought of death will probably always be a little scary because we don’t know when it’s coming or what it will feel like, but the fear of death can absolutely go away when you seek the Lord with your whole heart.

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:55

Further up and further in!

Christians, No Retreat

With the recent horrifying events, it is in the thoughts of most Christians that the end is in sight. Maybe so. Maybe we are about to be gathered into the barn. But if that time is in fact at hand, now is not the time to retreat.

Be strong and courageous! Do not back down. Our work isn’t over until we are in glory. Multitudes still need the regenerating gospel. You may still need the true regenerating gospel!

And what is that gospel? It is that left to your natural-born self, you are at war with God. You have no business in heaven and are like a dead man walking. But if you believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who took the punishment we deserve on Himself, He will come into your heart and make you a new creation, a child of God. This New Creation you will really and truly experience here in this life! And that isn’t all, you receive also the gift of eternal life in Heaven because Christ is what makes us clean before God. Because of Christ washing away our sin, we can share in the Kingdom of God.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

believed this already, examine yourself. There is evidence here and now in this life that you are a regenerated creation.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

If you think you are a Christian, you should at least see that your thoughts, feelings, and desires are going in the direction of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Examine and be honest with yourself. If you aren’t exhibiting these things, call out to God.

Call to Me, and I will answer and show you great and unsearchable things you do not know.
Jeremiah 33:3

There is something called the Prosperity Gospel, and there is no time like the present to walk away from it. This false gospel tells you that you will not have trouble in this life. If you are attending a church or listening to a pastor that tells you that Christ’s gospel will give you mansions, money, and good health—get out. There is a real, true, good, regenerating Gospel and the Prosperity Gospel is not it. Walk away from it into true life and your true purpose.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

Christians, real true regenerated Christians, this is not the time to settle in and wait for the end. This is not the time to hide in fear. This is what we were made for! Because of Christ in us, we are the light in darkness, and it is in these darkest times that we will shine the brightest.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Matthew 28:19

No retreat.

Emily Castle is Code for “Examine the Establishment”

*SPOILERS*

In Brumbletide and the Daughter of Eve, we are introduced to a miraculous castle called Emily where the general public comes to be treated as royalty, seemingly free of charge. Young or old, rich or poor can come to Castle Emily and sit on their very own throne, enjoy a royal feast with their family, and even be referred to as “Your Majesty” and given a royal prefix before their name.

While receiving the royal treatment, guests are wowed by magical and miraculous happenings of the castle. Flying creatures, talking candles, children that sing only what you like to hear, and fire that doesn’t burn at the touch are only a few of the wonders of Emily.

Of course, in the end, we find out that all of the magic of Emily is fueled by the heinous murders of innocent Snickerlings. The magnificent creatures are killed, their wings removed and nailed to the catacombs. This is how Emily Castle is kept miraculously afloat in the sea, and it is only by the sacrifice of the innocent that it is able to have any magic at all.

But there is more to the story and thankfully hope to be found. There is a true Kingdom hidden beneath this abomination, and the King that Castle Emily claims to hail is there.

My hope today is that wherever you are in life, whatever establishment you choose to be a part of, examine it thoroughly. And examine it all the further if you are treated like a king.

If you find evil, be strong and courageous and expose the Emily.

And, young one, be strong and courageous and bring forth the Brumbletide.

Have yet to experience the magic? Find it here!

I Threw Up My Food for 20 Years—Why Didn’t God Heal Me When I Asked Him?

The obvious question is why would I throw up my food for twenty years?

Oddly enough, bulimia turned out to be a symptom of OCD. Find out more here.

Believe it or not, I did not find joy in bulimia. Those twenty years were filled with immense shame, endless frustration, and years of calling out to God to take it from me. The disorder was completely out of my control, and God did not heal me for twenty years.

Why? Why didn’t He heal me? I didn’t want to continue living that way? I was praying for something that would please Him, after all. I asked “In Jesus Name” like it says to do in John 14:14. Wasn’t it sin to destroy my body by purging food constantly? Didn’t God want me to stop? Yet, twenty years passed, and I was still a mess.

He did heal me when I was thirty-three. At just the right time. And I consider it pure joy.

“Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked the invalid in John 5.

I didn’t. I had another god, and it was my body. I wanted to stop throwing up, but I didn’t want to stop worshipping my god. I didn’t want to be healed because it would mean I would have to surrender to God’s ideas and let go of mine. Long story short, I settled into the idea that I would never be able to stop, bulimia would always be my skeleton in the closet, and I would probably die from it one day.

But never underestimate the power of praying for what you do NOT want.

At a few points during those twenty years, I ended up at death’s door and prayed for God to take the bulimia no matter what it took. And at the right time, He certainly did. When I was thirty-three, God dropped the gospel—the real regenerating gospel—on my head like a bag of bricks, and killed me—dead. But then He brought me back to life as a brand new creation in Him. It’s called regeneration, and it’s real and miraculous. After that, the eating disorder was completely gone. It seems like it was someone else that lived that life! I’m completely new in every way, not just a healed eating disorder, but my thoughts, feelings, and desires! Everything is new like I never thought it could be. But it is, and it was Christ—Jesus Christ—that did it!

Now that I am through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I see that God was with me that whole time. He knew that He would heal me when He would but I had so much to learn. I needed to know His true and glorious gospel, and I needed to know the emptiness of the god that I was currently worshipping—my body. I was so afraid to let go because what if God’s will included something that I didn’t want? I didn’t trust God, and I didn’t really want to be healed.

Listen, I would have never stopped serving that god of my body if God would have lifted the illness when I asked.

I want to put this out into the world because I know there are millions of people in situations similar to what I’ve described. And I want you to know that though it seems completely hopeless, it isn’t. Call out to God and pray for what you do NOT want. Whatever you are holding on to, tell God that you can’t let go, but that you want to. Then keep praying and wait. And at just the right time, God will lift it. He will.

COTC…RELEASED!

In case you missed it, the second in the Brumbletide series RELEASED last week. And in case you missed this too, it’s at a LOW price until January of 2022!

Find it here!

Enjoy!

The Most Important Book

I have debated in my mind whether or not to start a new blog altogether for my Christian posts. You can probably gather by this one that I decided against it. While I am an author of middle-grade novels, I am a Christian. This being the case, everything I do, novel writing included, is Christian.

I know that the gospel with save the world. You can find out how in this post.

But once again, the church has gone astray. Today, I want remind you of the world’s most important book that is neglected by those who know of it, and hidden from those who don’t.

The Bible.

Have you read it? Have really read it? If you call yourself a Christian, I am telling you today, this is your sign to read it. This is your sign to put down whatever you are looking at, whatever you are watching or reading, and read your Bible. Read the actual Bible. Not books that have verses from it or talk about it—but the actual 66 books inspired by God.

He wouldn’t have left it if He didn’t want us to read it. You have to read it.

The reason Christians are going in so many radically different directions today, is that we have forgotten our Bible. We have exchanged the words of God for the words of men, once again worshipping ourselves.

Today, friend, return to God. Drop the “truths” of this world that are causing destruction everywhere we look, and return to God. Open the Bible, pray for understanding, and don’t stop reading until you’ve got it. Keep coming back day after day. This is abiding in the Lord.

Busy? Make time. FIGHT for your faith!

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

Find Your Emily Hall

Take this quiz to see which hall at Emily Castle your dormitory would be in. This would also be your sports team and house!

Keep track of the number for each of your answers. When you have your hall, click the name to read its description. If you end up with more than one, choose the one that suits you best.

Godspeed, Your Majesty!

Which book?                     

  1. Alice in Wonderland
  2. Peter Pan
  3. The Hobbit
  4. Charlotte’s Web
  5. Grimm’s Fairy Tales
  6. Divergent
  7. Non-Fiction

Which color?

  1. Royal Blue
  2. Gold
  3. Green
  4. Yellow
  5. Red
  6. White
  7. Grey

Which Activity?

  1. Party
  2. Hunting
  3. Gardening
  4. Cooking
  5. Writing
  6. Reading
  7. Pondering

Which Place?

  1. Paris
  2. Scotland
  3. New Zealand
  4. New York
  5. England
  6. Germany
  7. Russia

Which Animal?

  1. Cat
  2. Dog
  3. Beaver
  4. Bird
  5. Pig
  6. Dragon
  7. Snake

Which Room?

  1. Ballroom
  2. Gymnasium
  3. Greenhouse
  4. Kitchen
  5. Bedroom
  6. Library
  7. Study

Which Atmosphere?

  1. Warm evening
  2. Crisp morning
  3. Wet and sunny
  4. Warm and sunny
  5. Cool night
  6. Warm and dry
  7. Hot or cold- no in-between

Which Evil?

  1. Vanity
  2. Anger
  3. Theft
  4. Addiction
  5. Anxiety
  6. Insecurity
  7. Pride

Which Dessert?

  1. Birthday cake
  2. Pie
  3. Shortbread
  4. Fruit tart
  5. Tiramisu
  6. Snickerdoodle
  7. Divinity 

Which Thing?

  1. Goblet
  2. Trophy
  3. Shovel
  4. Teapot
  5. Journal
  6. Scale
  7. Pen

Where would You Dwell?

  1. Under the sea
  2. In the woods
  3. In the garden
  4. In the cottage
  5. On the mountain
  6. In the lab
  7. In the museum

Which Describes You Best?

  1. Charismatic
  2. Competitive
  3. Natural
  4. Hospitable
  5. Wise
  6. Joyful
  7. Shrewd 

Which Power?

  1. Ability to fly
  2. Super strength
  3. Control of nature
  4. Power to heal
  5. Telepathy
  6. Extreme intelligence
  7. Mind Control

Mostly 1s: FAIRFANG

Mostly 2s: CHAMPION

Mostly 3s: BRAVETAIL

Mostly 4s: FLEETWING

Mostly 5s: IRONSNOUT

Mostly 6s: WHITESCALE

Mostly 7s: FIREBREATHER

Have yet to read BRUMBLETIDE? Find it here!

WHITESCALE

House of Whitescale

Ancestor: Queen Soleil

Head of House: Queen Mother Felberta

Tower: Soleil Tower

Mascot: white dragon

Class: Academics (Math and Science) 

Whitescales are lighthearted, friendly, and good with numbers. They love to spend time experimenting whether in an actual lab or in life. Brainy yet easygoing, Whitescales make wonderful friends and usually work well in groups. 

Founder of Whitescale, Queen Soleil, played a great role in Emily’s architecture and was worked closely with Queen Flori during the construction of the Hanging Gardens. 

Whitescale Strengths: intelligent, good with numbers, experimental, good-natured, hardworking

Whitescale Weaknesses: prone to insecurity 

Have yet to read BRUMBLETIDE AND THE DAUGHTER OF EVE?

Find it here!

FIREBREATHER

House of Firebreather

Ancestor: King Michelle

Head of House: Queen Mother Toadi

Tower: Michelle Tower

Mascot: Purple Dragon

Class: Academics (Language Arts and Social Studies) 

A Firebreather is expected to ‘execute or be executed”. There are high expectations for Firebreathers since it was none other than their founder, King Michelle, that built the magnificent Emily Castle. Intelligent, diligent, shrewd, and charming, most go far in life after their time at the academy. Many of your favorites actors, politicians, and CEOs graced the Halls of the Dragons. 

Firebreather Strengths: intelligent, intellectual, shrewd, cunning, hardworking, makes a good first impression 

Firebreather Weaknesses: can be manipulative, prone to self-absorbtion 

Have yet to read BRUMBLETIDE AND THE DAUGHTER OF EVE?

Find it here!