As hard as it is to believe, tomorrow will be the electronic release of my first book, Being Called Chaplain: How I Lost My Name and (Eventually) Found My Faith. At least I hope it will. There are still a few things to iron out. This publishing a book thing is nerve-racking stuff. And maybe the most stressful part of it for me has been getting the cover just right. I know everyone says, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we still do, don’t we? I wanted a cover that would make people want to know what’s inside this book, that would make them pick it up off a shelf or a sales table or click it on Amazon. It wasn’t my choice to put me on the cover. Let’s be honest, I don’t really have a look that sells books.
But this is the cover of my book. And that’s me on it. And I’m glad, I think. My editor was right that it’s my story and so it just wouldn’t make sense not to have me on the cover. When we did the photo shoot on the campus of the hospital where I work, the photographer took my picture from so many different angles in so many different places doing so many different things that I lost count. I only know that I’ve never had that many pictures of me taken in one day before this. It was overwhelming.
Normally, I don’t like having my picture taken. I’m the one who gets upset because unflattering photos of me end up on social media, and I still haven’t found what I would consider to be my best angle. After years of soul-searching and prayer and counseling, I finally love who I am, but I haven’t yet learned to love the way my body looks. I know I’m not alone in this. It seems almost universal, especially among women. So when my editor told me that she envisioned a picture of the back of me on the cover of my book, my first thought was, Can’t we hire a butt double – some model who looks a lot better from the back than I do? Most people reading the book wouldn’t know the difference anyway. And a better looking body is sure to sell more books.
If I were working with a bigger, more traditional publisher, that might have happened. And I think I would’ve been sorry. That’s me on the cover. That’s the wavy brown hair I inherited from my dad. That’s the beauty mark on my left cheek that I’ve had since I was 8 years old, the one I declined to have removed when I was younger because I thought I wouldn’t look like me anymore. Those are the arms I’ve always wished were thinner, but the same ones that have hugged loved ones and held grieving family members of patients in the hospital where I work, that painted every room in my house and built the brick garden beds in my back yard, that put pen to paper (and fingers to keyboard) in writing this book. Those oversized hips have balanced many babies – none of them technically mine, but I’m still hoping for that someday. And no, I’m not crazy about that big butt (which I’m thankful is somewhat hidden by the subtitle), but it’s mine.
This is my story, and this is my body, the only one I’ve got. Putting some generic pretty girl on the cover would have been dishonest. If you read the book, you’ll see some of my struggles with weight and body image. Those things aren’t going to go away overnight. But I think I’m close to the point where I can look at the cover of this book – my book – and not just see all the things I don’t like about my body. I can look at it and see me – the woman and the chaplain and the friend and the daughter and the author and everything else that I am. The more I look at the photo, the more I fall in love with it.
This is a fantastic picture. I love the palmetto trees visible above and behind the sign, so very Charleston. I love the way the green of the trees matches the green of my dress, and the blue of the sign matches the blue of my Bible. We didn’t even plan those things. I love the way the hospital sign overshadows me, and the way I’m turning in the direction of the hospital with a determined posture, my Bible in hand and my ID badge visible, ready to go to work. If I could look at this picture without thinking about the fact that it’s me, I think I would be intrigued by this woman and want to know what her story is. I believe it’s a story worth reading, and I hope you’ll think so too.