Books, Faith, Interview

Interview with S.G. Willoughby: He’s Making Diamonds Blog Tour

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Hey, guys! I hope you’re having a wonderful morning, afternoon, or evening. Today, we have something a slightly different post than normal on YLFC. The amazing S.G. Willoughby is releasing her first book, He’s Making Diamonds: A Teen’s Thoughts on Faith Through Chronic Illness.

I am going to be participating in the launch tour for her book!!! I’ll be sharing the cover, blurb, and book trailer for the book and then I’ll be interviewing S.G.! Plenty of awesome stuff goin’ on today. 😀

He's Making Diamonds Front Cover

Are you a teenager trying to navigate faith through chronic illness? I’m here to tell you, you are not alone.

When sickness takes over your life, it’s a never-ending battle to make it through each day. How do you cope? How do you keep fighting? Most of all though, how do you find God in the midst of the suffering?

Through my own journey of sickness, I’ve struggled with the same questions—questions we all think but are afraid to ask. My name is Sara, and I’ve been sick with Lyme disease and more since I was fourteen.

Those questions you’re afraid to ask? I’ve asked them too—as have many others.

This book addresses topics and questions such as:

  • Why is there sickness?
  • Where is God in sickness?
  • Resting in the storm
  • How to deal with the way chronic illness changes you
  • Joy and despair
  • Hope
  • Praying through chronic illness
  • Relationships in the midst of chronic illness
  • And more!

The journey of illness is not an easy one, but hope remains. God hasn’t left us. He hasn’t forgotten us. On the contrary, He’s making diamonds out of us.

Click to add He’s Making Diamonds on Goodreads!

Or go ahead and purchase a copy for yourself or a friend!

watch the book trailer!

the interview

What inspired you to write He’s Making Diamonds? Where did the idea originate?

The idea originated with my blog. You see, before starting my blog I’d thought I was relatively alone as a chronically ill teen trying to navigate faith. But as I started my blog and began to connect with more and more people who said, “me too!” I realized I wasn’t as alone as I thought. And that so many of us had the same questions and struggles and didn’t even know it. We all thought we were alone as a young person who is sick and as someone struggling with faith and questions. But we weren’t. So I decided to write a book for all of those who felt alone, who were harboring questions, and who all struggled with the same things I did. I have learned so much through my sickness and if I can help anyone else who is in the same boat with those truths, I want to!

What about self-publishing drove you to choose it over traditional publishing?

The biggest thing that tipped me toward indie publishing as opposed to traditional publishing was the fact that all of the people I trusted most, writers and non-writers, were advising me to take that route. I couldn’t seem to escape the message. I actually, didn’t want to indie publish. I love the indie publishing world, but I wanted to traditionally publish. But as I thought, researched, and prayed about it, I realized that logically, indie publishing did make sense for me. It allowed me to set my own deadlines and work with flexibility… something important for anyone with a chronic illness (it’s very unpredictable). Working in my own timing has been crucial. I also knew that I had connections who would be willing to help me through the process with things I couldn’t do… like the fact that my brother was a filmmaker and could do the book trailer. If it weren’t for all of those amazing people, I definitely would have needed to help and support that traditional publishing brings. But God brought me my own handpicked support group.

Who’s one author you look up to greatly in the writing world?

Oh, there’s so many, but one is Sarah Mally. She was one of the first people I’d heard of who wrote a book while still young, and I really admired her books. I didn’t even know she was independently published until I was already on my own publishing journey, but that was cool too. Her messages she shares in her books and teaching are so important for so many to hear, and she shares it with grace, wisdom, and without compromising her standards.

How has writing this book changed you as a person?

Writing this book was both hard and healing. There were times I cried, and times I rejoiced over the truth God gives us. It helped me to process things I’d gone through and pushed me to ask even more questions that I hadn’t addressed yet in my own life to find out where I stood. The book process has taught me more about God’s grace, hearing His voice, and trusting Him when things seemed impossible.

How has having a chronic illness strengthened/weakened or changed your faith in God?

Before I got sick, I was a goody-two-shoes who thought she knew what she was doing, who she is, and where she stood on many issues. But the thing I came to realize was that my confidence in some of those things, though perhaps innocent, was also ignorant and prideful. Illness has helped me to have mercy, grace, and compassion on those around me, and to realize that I don’t know everything and can’t be so quick to judge… while at the same time, helped me solidify and sometimes changed where I stood on different issues. Most of all, it’s taught me to rely on God and His sufficient grace. I think that though I felt like a failing Christian at times (still do sometimes) because of my illness, sickness has strengthened my faith and trust in God because of the unknowns, impossible trials, and my failings.

What is one of or a few of your favorite Bible verses?

Two of my favorite Bible verses right now are 2 Corinthians 12:9 which says:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

And Isaiah 43:18-19 which says:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

How long did it take you to complete He’s Making Diamonds from first draft to publishing?

It took me three days less than a year. I wrote the first draft in about four months, and the rest followed after that (broken up with health issues, of course 😉 ).

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions! I’m so excited for the release of your book!

Thank you for having me, Anika! You asked some deep questions.

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S. G. Willoughby is a seventeen-year-old girl with Lyme disease, toxic mold poisoning, and MCS. Currently, she resides in Arizona with her parents and two siblings. In her spare time she loves to write, read, and have adventures.

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Culture, Faith, Guest Post

4 Tips for Living for God in a Distracted World {Guest Post by Caitlyn M.}

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Distractions come at us daily from about every angle. The enemy tries to get our eyes off of Jesus and what truly matters, and many times, we let him win. In a world full of distractions of all kinds, it can be so easy to mindlessly bow to temptations. We can forget to seek God first, and put idols in His place while still claiming to be His whole-hearted servants.

Please don’t think I am super experienced and totally perfect in this area. Ha, no way. I have my problems too, the major one being my phone. Before I got a phone I would see all these people on their phones – in public and such – and think it was sad. I heard about people looking at their phones first thing in the morning and thought that was so wrong and that I wouldn’t do that. Well…since getting a phone I’ve become guilty of doing both of those things, and being addicted to my phone.

I’m sure you have struggles like me, whether with your phone or with other distractions. In this post, I want to give you some practical ways to seek God and live for Him, to encourage you as well as me.

strive to set your mind on God first every day & have a daily quiet time

My first tip is, in my opinion, one of the most important ones. For a while I was looking at my phone first thing in the morning, and then spending time with the Father, and it just wasn’t the same as spending time with Him first.

I encourage you to strive to spend time with God first each day. Now, I know that some cannot have a full quiet time in the morning due to work or other responsibilities, and that’s totally fine! However, I still encourage you to at least read a verse or a short passage before going about your day, or even looking at your phone. Take a few minutes to read and think about the passage, and to thank God for a new day.

Strive to set your mind on things above (Colossians 3:2) before you go about your day, and to have a daily quiet time with the Lord, praying and reading the Word. If you can do so in the morning, I highly encourage you to do so. If not, find another time when you can daily have a quiet time. This is such an important and vital part of our lives!

work to daily rid your heart of idols

Idols are not only creepy wooden statues that people bow down to, but anything in our hearts that we place above God. It can be hard to realize you have an idol that needs to be taken care of, and if someone tells you about it, it can hurt and you might deny it.

Although ridding your heart of idols is tough and sometimes painful, it’s something that we all must do. I encourage you to pray daily for the Lord to show you any idols you have in your heart, and for Him to help you seek Him first and get rid of those idols.

1 John 5:21 says it plainly: Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

If you notice an idol in your life, pray and ask God to help you walk in victory from that. Come up with some practical tips to daily overcome it and actually TRY daily to do so, counting on God for strength. When you fail, don’t quit! It takes a while to form a habit and to overcome, but in Jesus you DO have the VICTORY!

evaluate what media you’re looking at and listening to

Oh, the media. Sometimes I wish we didn’t have social media/technology, and sometimes I’m very grateful for it. In a world full of technology, Christians need to be careful and evaluate what we are looking at and listening to.

There are many impure movies, songs, tv shows, blogs, websites, and social media accounts. There are so many images that no one should look at, songs with words no one should hear.

I encourage you evaluate who you follow on social media, who you let follow you, what movies/shows you watch, and what music you listen to. Prayerfully think about all the media that you have in your life.

What we put in will come out, and seeking God first means honoring Him in all areas of our lives. Here are a couple Scriptures on this topic.

Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things.” // Philippians 4:8 (A great verse to help evaluate and think about what you watch/listen to /read.)

Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth.” // Colossians 3:2

use your time wisely and for His glory

Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. –CT Studd

It’s scary but humbling to realize that you and I could die today. However, as Christians, this should not scare us, but motivate us! God’s grace is beautiful and amazing, but He didn’t extend His love to us so that we would sit around and be lazy.

I encourage you to think about how you use your time, and strive to use it for God’s glory. Whatever tasks you have, strive to do them for His glory. Find more ways that you can reach out and make a difference in your community.

Replace bad habits, like being on your phone or watching TV/Netflix/Amazon Prime with doing worthwhile things like helping around the house, working on a craft project, starting a Bible study, or reading a good Christian book! Use the time you’ve been given you grow closer to God and shine His light!

I pray this post has been an encouragement to you to live for the glory of God, and live for Him despite all the distractions in this world. God is our treasure, now and forever, and the only One worth living for. Is what you’re living for worth Jesus’ dying for?

let’s chat!

Do you struggle with being distracted? If so, what distracts you? Which of the four points stuck out to you? How will you start pushing back distractions and living whole-heartedly for God?

Caitlyn M. loves the Lord and strives to live for Him. She hopes to encourage and challenge others to live for the Lord through her daily life and writing. She likes writing, reading, making crafts, hand-lettering, and playing her guitar and ukulele. You can check out more of her writing at her blog, Salt and Light.

Guest Post, The Bible

Chewing the Cud of Clichés {Guest Post by Nellye}

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Wouldn’t you agree with me when I say that clichés are overused? I suppose they wouldn’t be called clichés if they weren’t! Whether it’s to the couple just married, or the family grieving a loss, we always have those sayings that we offer to congratulate or encourage or comfort.

“What a lovely couple!…You’ll go far in life…I’m so sorry for your loss…etc.” It sometimes seems that these words from friends and family have almost no meaning.

Certain Bible verses can almost be like that too. In letters and cards, on plaques and decorations, for a graduation or a job promotion, whatever the item or season of life, you will find that there’s usually a verse to go along with it. Think John 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11, or Psalm 23. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that just because a verse can be found on a mug or in your birthday card, it becomes meaningless; rather, I mean quite the opposite!

These “cliché” verses are ones we’ve heard and seen so many times we know them by heart. And yet they have lost their meanings in a way. We smile and nod as we read that card or listen to that encouraging friend, and we really are appreciative, but it’s as though we feel we’ve gotten everything out of it that we can possibly get out of it. Isn’t that why it’s called cliché? Because it’s familiar and well-known? There isn’t any cud left to chew, right?

To explain, let’s take a short rabbit trail to discuss the digestive system of the cow. I promise I’m not crazy! 😉 The cow, instead of having one stomach, has four stomachs/stomach-like compartments: the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum, and the abomasum.

The rumen is stop number one for the food a cow consumes. Fibers begin breaking down, and some of that comes back up to be chewed a second time (called rumination), then travels back down through the esophagus into the reticulum, an organ that filters out foreign objects and then sends all the important stuff to the omasum and abomasum where the remainder of digestion occurs.

In the rumination process, the food that comes back up (called cud) is mixed with saliva and chewed that second time to release extra enzymes and nutrients that benefit the cow’s health. In just the same way, we take mental and spiritual food and ruminate on it. We chew our own cud! But sometimes it feels like there’s not really anything left to chew. Is that true?

When my blogger friend asked me to write a blog post, I was so excited! I figured it wouldn’t take me long at all to come up with the subject. Boy, was I wrong! I pondered it for a couple days and, frustrated by my lack of ideas, I prayed that God would show me what to write about (should have done that first thing, huh?). I’ve recently been doing this study by Charles Swindoll, and one of the most recent chapters was on Scripture meditation. The challenge he gave was to meditate on Proverbs 3:5-6.

At first, I didn’t really take the time to do that. I thought about it for just a moment, but since it’s one of those cliché passages, there “wasn’t really anything to get out of it,” you know? So I went on with what I was doing. But last night as I was trying to sleep, it came to mind that maybe I should really, truly meditate on those verses. And you know what happened? God sent me a whole store of nutrients and enzymes I hadn’t realized were there.

It turns out, when you make time to break down a verse, taking each word and giving it a good long chew before sending it on to that reticulum, no matter how cliché it might be, there’s always more to be absorbed from it.

My charge to you today is to not accept the cliché as simply cliché, but to “think on these things” and allow God to show you the depth of His Word. I think you will be surprised by what you find! 🙂

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord: and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Psalm 1:1-3+

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.” Jeremiah 33:3

Nellye is a daughter of God and desires to shine His light for the world to see. Though she may seem quiet at first, she is a firm believer in knowing how to be silly and serious. She is an avid reader of many genres; a dedicated writer of fiction and nonfiction alike; a lover of nature who savors long walks in the outdoors, and who believes there is never an off season for stargazing; an abstract artist with a tendency toward semi-realism; and a passionate singer, songwriter, and listener of music.