My friend Jennifer Dukes Lee and I are doing something fun today – she’s over here at my place, and I’m over at hers, which is perfect, because that’s exactly how we’ve walked this road to publication: arm-in-arm the whole way.
If you don’t know her yet, Jennifer is the author of the recently released Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval – and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes. Friends, this book is fab. u. lous. I read several chapters of it in its early draft stage and loved it. Then, when it was released a few weeks ago, I read it again from start to finish, and man oh man, this book spoke to me exactly where I am. And I suspect it will do the same for you.
I met Jennifer in person a few years ago when she came to Lincoln to run the Lincoln Half-Marathon. I still remember the gifts she brought for me: Lee Family Farm Soy Nuts and soy candle in a beautiful votive, which still sits on my dining room window sill (I polished off the soy nuts long ago). She is just as sweet and generous in person as she is online – I am so grateful to call Jennifer a good, good friend.
Here’s Jennifer, chatting about Love Idol, writing, family and everything in between…
1. I think it’s easy for us as readers to assume that you, as the author, have everything all figured out and all your “Love Idol” issues resolved, but I suspect that’s not quite the case! So what does all this look like for you in the day-to-day? Do you still struggle with your Love Idol – with your desire for approval – and if so, how do you get a handle on that?
Oh Michelle, I wish that I could tell you that I had this Love Idol business all tidied up and tossed out with the week’s garbage. But truthfully, I’ve found that idols are pesky and persistent. They crawl out of the garbage bags, drag their stinky selves up the sidewalk, and bang on the front doors of our hearts. When I began writing the book, I texted a pastor these words exactly: “This is a book about making peace with yourself and with whom God made you to be. It is for people who crave approval … and who fear that at any moment the world will see what a mess they really are. Funny, because you might think a person should be cured before they write such a book, but even as I write, I find myself in the midst of this battle daily.”
(Yes, I am one of those people who writes insanely long texts, using proper punctuation. But I digress.)
The pastor texted me back, mercifully with more brevity: “That is the thing—the cure is the process.”
And that is what I’m learning and re-learning. The cure IS the process.
Removing Love Idols is daily work, much like the daily tending of a garden. I have to tend to my heart-garden every morning, sometimes several times a day, to weed out Love Idols.
And right now, I have to be even more vigorous than ever before with my heart-garden tending. Because even the book itself is subjected to a system built on approval or disapproval. Simply take a look at Amazon.com: Readers can now assign one to five stars to our books — indeed, to our hearts.
2. When did you first get the idea for Love Idol? How long did the idea simmer before you actually made the leap into writing the book?
From about 2005-2009, I entered a very intense time of Scriptural study. I led numerous Bible studies in my community, mined Scripture, and then began to write about a lot of what I was finding and learning in a blog that I started in 2008. In 2010, I looked back on those Bible study workbooks, highlighted Scriptures and old blog posts. I was surprised to see a theme emerging: this striving for approval and significance in life.
The book was really born at Laity Lodge on the Frio River in Texas, during a retreat for the editorial team of The High Calling. It was a Friday night, and I was sitting across the dining room table from another farmer’s wife. We talked about how our husbands loved crops and pigs — and how their wives loved words. And this other farmer’s wife reached a hand across the table, and she said to me: “When are you writing your book, Jennifer?” That woman was Ann Voskamp. I’m tremendously grateful for her guidance and encouragement early on. I didn’t start writing the book until a year later, but that moment between two farm wives was a key moment for Love Idol.
3. You have a beautiful and unique ability to weave personal story into your book in an authentic, transparent way. Was it hard for you to be so honest about yourself in the book? How did you overcome any reservations you might have had about being so honest about your flaws?
Honestly, no. It wasn’t hard. I think I had grown accustomed to that level of honesty and transparency on the blog. The harder transition came, perhaps, when I moved from writing for newspapers from 1988-2005, and then, in 2008, turning the reporter’s notebook around and asking the hard questions of myself. So by the time the book came out, I’d had years of practice. I had witnessed what happens when we get honest with each other. It’s like what C.S. Lewis says: “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”
4. What’s a typical day-in-the-life of Jennifer Dukes Lee look like? How do you balance the demands of writing and family and everything else in between?
Typical? What’s that word? Since March 21, I’ve forgotten what typical is. Because the days have sounded like variations of this: LoveIdolLoveIdolLoveIdolLoveIdolLoveIdolzzzzzzzLoveIdolLoveIdolLoveIdol. (Notice the very brief respite of sleep in there.)
A good friend reminded me that books are like babies, and that they need round-the-clock tending. Love Idol has needed lots of feeding and diaper-changing. And even at night, I have sneaked into the nursery to make sure she hasn’t stopped breathing.
But when I’m not raising book-babies, I lead a far more balanced life on this fourth-generation Lee Family farm in northwest Iowa … where we’re raising crops, pigs, a herd of cats, an occasional sheep, and two humans. The girls are both in school now, so I get almost all of my writing work done in the mornings, while they’re away at school.
5. I stole this question from Sarah Caldwell, who asked me the same thing: Write a six-word memoir that captures your life as a writer (I know! Isn’t that a killer question?!)
Once upon a … Oh look! Squirrel!
Love her answer to that last question! Thanks so much, Jennifer, for taking the time in between tending your book baby to answer my questions.
Jennifer Dukes Lee is an award-winning news journalist and author of Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval—and Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. She blogs at JenniferDukesLee.com. She invites you to connect with her on Twitter @dukeslee and on Facebook.
I am thrilled to be able to offer one reader a free copy of Love Idol. To enter the giveaway contest, complete the Rafflecopter below. And if you don’t win, treat yourself to your own copy. Love Idol is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook.com and in stores nationwide.
And don’t forget…stop by Jennifer’s place today, too – she’s giving away two copies of Spiritual Misfit – see you over there!