Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Uncertainties - In My Life (1/11/17)

In my life, there are so many questions and answers that somehow seem wrong
In my life, there are times when I catch in the silence the sigh of a faraway soul
And it sings of a world that I long to see
Out of reach, just a whisper away waiting for me...

- In My Life, Les Miserables (look up the 10th Anniversary edition, it's the best one) ;)

This portion of the song resonates with me greatly at the present moment... I feel so much uncertainty, so much strangeness, and I wonder so much. I wonder about nearly everything now, and it unnerves me just a little. I think about things and question why such oddities would cross my mind and then wonder why I care. Does it really matter?

I suppose it shouldn't... but, as I said, it unnerves me. 

I've convinced myself it's normal to have images flash in my head of different scenes I've never seen, but have imagined so many times, they feel like memories; stories I have conjured up so vividly, they seem to be relaying before my eyes. 

Is this what it is to be a writer? To always be noticing quirks and flaws in everyone around me and concluding, "That's something that my Lena would do," or, "That guy in the corner makes me think of how I imagined Josiah," or, "I like the way the girl I'm talking to closes her eyes and crinkles her nose when she laughs. Someone (in my story) should do that."

But it doesn't stop there. I feel like I'm having these stories - this one specific story - trapped inside me all of the time. And so far there's only two characters, and both are based partly off of two people from the real world! I would almost venture to say that it is beginning to distort my view of who they really are and I get it muddled with the characters I based off of them. My thoughts can get as strange as, "Is it too unrealistic for her to do such-and-such a thing if she's dying?" or, "Would my esquire really be able to believe that the servant girl is a mute, or would he keep trying to trick her into saying something?" or, "Will people really be able to see what I'm seeing when they read this, or will they picture it in a totally different way (because I think I would hate that)?"

I guess I'm just feeling some uncertainties, some misgivings.

Is this what being an author is really like?

I'm questioning my calling. ;)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Sparks of Creativity (12/30/16)

Chase the ideas that challenge your creativity, chase the things and thoughts that tie your mind in strings and knots until you blurt out in frustration, "But that's impossible!!!" 
Any nonsense, any fantasy, any magic - and wonder to yourself aloud, "What if it could be possible?" 
Let your mind expand and explore all the possibilities; let your heart run rampant and fall in love with such paradoxes and parables as it pleases as you create the lives of other people and shape their lives into what you wish yours might have been... shape their actions into what you wish you would have done - or left undone.

And maybe - just maybe - you will discover what it is to have a world that's all your own. 

Write what terrifies you; write the most complicated and terrible of ideas into the simplest of words; paint a picture of the peace and prosperity you cherish and entertain thoughts of in your secret heart; go on adventures and copy every detail down as you go along so that others may enjoy and learn from your tales; write the things you dream of forgetting, but you know you cannot; write the memories that make you blush and laugh to think of, but treasure all the same.

Put the world into your own words.

Chase after growth. Challenge your mind. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Life Can Be So Hard (12/20/16)

Guys, life is hard. I'm not going to sugarcoat it or try to beat around the bush. It can be so, so hard, so scary. 

I have a friend that I am worried about because she is going through incredibly difficult things, specifically things that are being said to her by people that ought to encourage her and lift her up. She is hurting, and all I want to do is take the hurt away because I've had a small taste of how it feels. I just want to make everything better, but I can't. 

I have a friend that I am truly scared for because of all the crazy, terrible things that are happening around where she lives. Every time she tells me of a new occurrence, I feel like my heart starts to shut down inside me. 

I have a friend who has a terminal illness; I can't even imagine the battles she fights and has fought for her entire life. I can't imagine being in a hospital that's that far from my home. She is quite probably the bravest person I know, and I wish I always had the peace she has through it all.

I'm scared sometimes, guys. The world is a scary, scary place. The uncertainty can be tantalizing, but it can also be feared for the lack of control it gives. 

When I was little, my parents taught me to recite Psalm 23 whenever I got scared; I had nightmares rather often (if I'm remembering rightly) and I remember one time standing in the hallway with my dad kneeling down so he was level with me. I was still at the stage just below hyperventilating and I was crying, and he asked me to think of different things I liked.
"Kittens!" I burst out, choking on tears (yeah, it's kind of humourous, looking back on it now).
"That's good. What else?"
"Holiday World..."
After naming one or two other things, he had me say Psalm 23 before sending me back to bed, feeling slightly reassured. Even now, I recite it when I'm scared or disconcerted - I even started quoting it when I had to run a mile in less than 10 minutes for a test and I started getting exhausted (we had done other exercises beforehand as well). I wasn't scared - I just realised that I needed to be running those laps for God and for His glory, and when I realised that, it helped motivate me to run hard until the end.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want. 

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Monday, November 21, 2016

I Want to Live Like That (11/21/16)

I love reading fiction, particularly stories that can make me feel something. Conviction, compassion, hope - these are just a few that come to mind. 

My favorite author is Charles Dickens; he writes stories with humour and romance and action and satire, all bound up and woven together into a masterpiece. He was a master of his trade, and in every story (at least, all of the ones I've read), there was some lesson, some problem that needing fixing in society. I love how he used his gift to not only entertain people with his imaginative storytelling, but also to help people. His books truly make me feel something, without fail.

Recently, I finished the book David Copperfield and absolutely loved it (which was no surprise, seeing as I haven't disliked any of his works thus far 😉). The character that really stuck out to me the most, besides the namesake and hero, was Agnes Wickfield. Throughout Copperfield's adolescent years, she is a sort of guiding-light for him, a beam of truth and goodness that shines in his life, and he recognizes and treasures it. Their relationship is that of a brother and sister and it is so precious. When he first meets her, she stands at the top of a staircase and a light is shining from a window on her, and in his mind he thinks of her as of a stained-glass window: without fault or blemish, only good and true, someone precious and pure, something rare. And I realised something, early on.

I want to be someones' Agnes Wickfield.

Not in a romantic way at all. I want to be the person that people can turn to in their troubles, like struggling sailboats in a gale turning to the lighthouse on the shore. Someone that people know they can trust to confide in and receive good, godly counsel. I want to be the kind of person that reserves their judgement until they are sure of the truth, and does not hesitate to forgive those who have done them harm. A godly woman who never doubts the goodness of God, who never falters on His path, who abhors evil and chases after the good and pure. Utterly selfless, ever focused on others and what can be done for them. There's a tranquility about her, this Miss Wickfield, and I should like very much to have the same heart as she.

Take that, Mr. Gradgrind of Coketown, you hater of all things "fanciful" and fictional! 😜

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Little Words - Big Impacts (11/17/16)

It was only a week or two after I had turned 16; we were attending a friend's graduation party and I was holding the 3-week-old little girl, the child of acquaintances who were also there. She was so tiny... her little fingers curled up into fists, her little mouth yawning... so precious. As I cradled and murmured soft nothings to her, my dad told me, "You're going to be a good mommy one day."
I ducked my head shyly and thanked him, but inwardly my heart was beaming. Dad thought I would be a good mom someday... that meant a lot to me, even if he didn't realize it. He may not even remember that it happened, but I'll never forget it.

It was my first time presenting a leadership lesson, and as if that was not hard enough, I felt like God had called me to do one on suicidal thoughts. I struggled through it, trying to get a discussion going among the cadets, but it started to fall apart. I was so nervous about the whole thing that I had over-prepared by making 6 pages of different notes, so I was constantly flipping back and forth in my binder trying to find what I needed, which flustered me even more. Whenever I answered a question, I was afraid that I would take my own experience and assume it was fact, so before I answered anything I stuttered, "In my own experience..."
After what felt like an hour (but was closer to 15 minutes), it was over and I packed up my binder and gear to go home. It wasn't the worst it could have been, but it wasn't the best either, so I was a little heavy-hearted. Friends and fellow cadets congratulated me on my lesson (which heartened me a bit) and the father of my friend (who I had never met) came up and shook my hand, saying, "Thank you for putting a piece of yourself in that; it took guts."
Nothing could have meant more to me in that moment than someone I had never met telling me, "That took guts."

They are little words, little nothings... but they mean so much. I can find so many instances in my life when only a few small words were spoken, but they shaped who I am today. Times when I thought no one had seen a small good I had done, and a person would come up and say, "I saw that; you did good."
Honestly, it's very seldom that you find something more treasured than these little validations and appreciations. Be liberal with kindness; toss words of love like confetti into the hearts of those around you. Maybe it makes you feel awkward, but it can mean the world to the recipients.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Semper Vigilans (11/6/16)

We all have an idea of what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. Stealing is wrong, while giving to others is right. Lying and selfishness are bad, but telling the truth and standing up for what is right despite persecution are good. It's easy with some things... I don't have the urge to steal or murder, and jealousy does not often seep in. 

But what about when judgement and discernment are darkened, and the lines get blurred? What happens when something starts out harmless, seeming neither good nor bad, and slowly turns into something evil? Sometimes it happens so slowly, so gradually, that it can be hard to notice.

Until someone is searching, that is. Searching through different parts of your life, sifting through each and every layer - not necessarily looking for the bad, but looking all the same - and you start to squirm under the scrutiny, trying to subtly push that evil you are associated with away so that they don't happen to see. It didn't seem bad, and maybe it still doesn't... but deep down you know that something has changed. Something has grown darker and darker, and you didn't even realize it was happening.

I've heard it said that committing a certain kind of sin more than once can be more dangerous than we realize. It's like an iron on that part of our conscience - the first time it hurts, and maybe the second or third or even fourth, but after so long, you can't feel it anymore. Your nerves there are dead and although you still know it's wrong, it seems more acceptable the more you do it. Just because it doesn't hurt anymore doesn't mean it's not still doing damage. Your nerves in that area could be dead while they are thriving in another, causing you to be in shock at the discovery of some new evil, but when someone points out your own sin, you brush it off. "It's not like that," you protest, trying to convince yourself and others that your sin isn't as great as others.

Semper Vigilans - Always Vigilant

As Christians, we should be ever-watchful, always vigilant against the onslaughts of evil. Evil would be much easier to battle if it was blunt and outright, but it's usually not. It usually tries to creep in without our notice, and slowly sneak past our defenses. Get us to do the "little" bad things and gradually let them build up until we are scared and confused, even trapped, wondering where in the world all this started and how they ended up there. 

1 Corinthians 10:13 - No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. What a comforting thought, to know that, in Christ, we are stronger than our temptations. In Christ, we are stronger than whatever the devil might try to throw at us. 

2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  

Matthew 10:27 - But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” 

Don't let your guard drop. Don't let your walls down. Don't get cocky and arrogant in your thinking, believing that the way is clear and you won't be tempted. You will - be ready to recognize the evil in this world and deny it. With God, all things are possible. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Wistful Memories (11/3/16)

She ripped the curtains open, staring out into the skies outside. 

"It's POURING!!!" She cried, closing them so that the sunshine left, leaving the room in darkness. A few scattered little flashes across the ceiling indicated lightning nearby, and the children all huddled in clumps across the bedroom floor. 

"Guys, don't be scared. There's nothing to be scared of. The storm won't be over for at least a hundred days." She assured her companions calmly. We could hear the rain pouring and the occasional thunderclap emitted from the sound machine on the floor by the dresser. Isaiah turned his walkie-talkie radio on and the sound of the weatherman's voice, although quiet, filled the room.

"Let me see that." She took it in hand and, despite her hard efforts to listen carefully, only caught about every other word.

"...temperature should stay under the 70's..."

 "OK guys," She announced. "The temperature should be under the 70's, so it'll probably be 80-something."

Lightning flashed again, and we all scurried for the bottom of their bunk-bed, covering out heads with the comforter.

"OK, we're safe here. Nothing can get us under here." 

2-year-old Judah shrieked and crawled over a few people to faceplant into my lap; I stroked his curly hair and laughed with him as he chuckled, although he didn't stay still for long before rolling around across the bed. We were warned about the imminent arrival of "Stormy Spiders", some dark and ominous creature of which a 5-year-old had more knowledge than the lot of us, and also informed that low-fives came before high-fives, to which I nodded and smiled and tried not to laugh at the randomness of it all.

Picture found via Pinterest
And... it was beautiful. The innocence, the candor, the eagerness for life and adventure, the pretending and playacting, however silly. Yes, the more silly it is, the better! I realized, there in that dark bedroom full of shrieking children, that I kind of miss it. Instead of being the one listening to the radio and alerting my friends to the onslaught that awaits us, I was the one on the side, holding my little friend and trying not to laugh and hurt their feelings. I know that, however much I join in on it in the future, I'll never have that back. I'm not grown up all the way, but I have grown up. My heart has changed since I was 5 years old in many ways, most of them for the better. 

But if I could have one thing back from those days, I would keep my innocence. My hopefulness, for although I have hope, it seemed to come easier then. The trust I used to give so freely... maybe it's better to be more careful, more cautious... but I do miss how life used to be when I was little and free.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Thoughts of Leading, Part 2 (10/18/16)

(continued from this post)

There isn't a magical quality that leaders have that separates them from ordinary people. There's not a magical pill you can take that will make you a successful leader. Being a leader simply means stepping up to the plate and doing what you said you would do; taking responsibility for a team of people dedicated to accomplishing a common goal; giving your best shot and putting the needs of the team before your own needs. 

One of the reasons why some people seem like natural leaders is because they know what they want, they know how they want it, and they know what they are going to do to get it. Their confidence, their self-assurance causes people to believe in them. It's hard for people to believe in a person who does not believe in herself. A leader has to truly believe in what they are doing.

There is a wisdom of the head, and a wisdom of the heart. - Charles Dickens, Hard Times

A leader's job is to serve the team, not boss people around.

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. - Dwight. D. Eisenhower

Leadership requires morality; leadership that lacks morality indicates no leadership at all.
My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right. - Abraham Lincoln

I hold the firm belief that anyone can be a leader. I believe that, even if you do not believe you have the capability, there is a God above Who works through the weak and those who believe they are small. 

I can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:13