Just a Quick Check-In

Hello readers! I just wanted to say a few things really quick:

1) Thank you so much to everyone who has talked to me about my writing since my last post. You have all been very encouraging and supportive and I really needed that 🙂 [feel free to keep that coming]

2) I know it has been a while since my last post (3 weeks? or something) and I had declared in that post that I will be posting more and writing more in general. I AM writing more, I just haven’t had much to show for it yet 😛

3) I’ve been trying to set a doable goal for how often I will post on here and I think I’ve settled on writing at least 2 posts per month (I know, I’m running out of time in January!). I might change it to once a week or something when I get the hang of it again, but we’ll see.
[EDIT: I’ve been having trouble doing 2 posts per month, so I’m changing this goal to 1 post per month to make it less stressful for me. But I might still have some months where I post more than once!)

4) I’ve been trying really hard to write my next post but nothing has been turning out quite right. I actually have a lot of ideas about what I want to write about. I sat down the other day with the goal of fleshing out a couple of those ideas and turning one of them into something post-able, but it just wasn’t happening. I can’t force these things. However, I have a new topic that I thought of today while I was doing dishes at work (my prime thinking time), and I will try to write that one before the month is over! I’ve got 3 days! To writing! TO VICTORY!

See you soon with something (hopefully) more substantial! ^_^

Why I Stopped Writing

It’s been so long since I’ve written a blog post… and even my last one came after quite a long hiatus. I’m not sure I know how to do this anymore…

It used to come so easily. I used to write all the time and would post blogs a few times each month. I wonder at how easy it was back then. [But maybe it was harder than I currently remember; nostalgia often accompanies altered memories.] I don’t really know what happened, but somewhere down the line, writing got harder for me and I was no longer really feeling encouraged to keep at it. It started to seem like this silly dream that I’d been chasing while I was in college and now it’s time for me to grow up and face the world. This world of adulthood where surviving is all that matters and writing isn’t going to take me anywhere because I’ll never be a great writer anyway. Take this line of thinking (part realistic, partly flawed) and add major anxiety issues complete with panic attacks and periods of depression and… well, maybe you can see why I’ve stopped writing.

I think that somewhere in the midst of all that, I forgot that writing is a part of me. Writing is important, even if I won’t ever be able to make a living from it because when I am not writing, there is a hole that grows bigger and bigger inside of me until I no longer know who I am or what I’m doing. If I lose writing, I lose a part of myself.

I think I also forgot that it’s okay for me to be bad at this. Writing has been my “thing” for a while now and I often feel like my friends and family are expecting everything I write to be phenomenal. I live in constant terror that everyone will find out that I’m not that good at writing, that I’m just a poser with her head in the clouds. This is why I often don’t let people read stories I’ve written and have even deleted some of the things that I wrote. And I know it’s so stupid and unproductive, but sometimes my fear gets the better of me.

So anyway… lately it seems that every time I try to write (which is not as often as it should be), I end up writing a lot about how I can’t write anymore (yes, I am aware of the irony). A few people have been asking me about my writing and I’m beginning to realize how weak my excuses are in comparison to how good I feel when I am writing… no matter how hard I have to work at it. And I know that I need to just write and keep writing whether or not I’m feeling it. That’s what writers do. They write. They write because they have to. They write because they love it (and maybe hate it a little too). They write because they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they weren’t writing. I have come to that point where I don’t know what to do with myself anymore. So I’m going to start writing again. And if it sucks, it sucks. I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to try to post blogs more often (I’m not sure if I’m going to make a regular schedule yet, but that is a possibility) and I’m going to start writing stories again… even when I don’t have any ideas. I’m also toying with the idea of creating another blog, separate from this one where I can just post writing prompts and free-writes just to keep the ideas flowing and for accountability (we’ll see). 

So… I guess I’m back to blogging. Some of my next posts might be more rambling about how I can’t write anymore, so I’m sorry in advance. I might need to do that a bit just to get past this terrible case of writer’s block… or whatever it is I’m blaming this all on. 

Oh! And, if you are one of the people who sees me in person on a regular basis: please bug me about my writing. I need to be bugged! (You know what I mean)

See you soon!

[PS – I think it is obvious how rusty I am. Thanks for putting up with the awkward flow and lack of structure that characterizes this post.]

Midlife Cri-…wait…no….Quater-life Crisis?

My brain does this thing every so often. Sometimes it’s once in a month, sometimes it’s every other week, sometimes it leaves me alone for about three months and then starts up again. I’m not entirely sure how to describe this thing but it is something like panic…very close to an identity crisis, but that’s not quite what it’s about.

It starts either with one little comment from someone else or with a thought from my own mind, apropos of nothing (well…maybe not nothing). It starts with a comment like “If you could be doing anything and money were no object, what would you be doing?” or “man, I love my job,” or “I really have a passion for [insert hobby/job].” Or it starts with a thought like, “I love writing, but I don’t really do it like I used to,” or “what is a writer without any ideas?” or “I already finished school and I’m nowhere near starting a family yet; what on Earth should I be doing with my life?” and so on and so forth. That’s when it happens. My mind begins to flood with all these semi-toxic thoughts until I begin to feel dizzy and worthless and utterly confused. And then the weight comes. This horrible, heavy monster that likes to plop himself right down on top of my lungs, and he sort of grins this fuzzy brown grin while he’s doing it. It is at this point that I start to wonder if I’m going completely insane.
After a while of this sensation, my slightly-more-logical side decides to show up and starts to re-think things, but all my crazy just starts to shout abuse at her until she just throws up her hands, sighs loudly and sits down, beginning to feel numb. It is at this point that my head goes quiet, I stop thinking about the matter of what I should be doing with my life altogether and proceed to go back to the way things were. [Sluggard that I am]

[[Usually, about a week after this fiasco, I again realize that God is sovereign and that my life should be lived completely for Him. I remember that I just need to keep trusting and serving Him and moving forward, but I still have that nagging feeling that there’s some turn in the path that I’m just missing outright. Like if I He gave me the skill and love for writing, shouldn’t I be using it?]]

Maybe someday I’ll actually get somewhere with this. Oh well…

Remembering (…or not)

I sort of have a bad long-term memory. Like, if I haven’t used the information in the last few years, I’ve probably forgotten it. Since I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about my childhood, it has all become a blur with arbitrary moments of clarity. Here and there, I’ll remember little details and facts about my past (like the little games my dad used to play with us, or baking cookies with my mom) but I never have many actual stories to tell. Whenever people ask questions like, “what is your favorite childhood memory,” or “what were you like as a kid,” I get really frustrated and kind of sad – I usually have to rely on things that my dad has told me or pictures I’ve seen or little fragments of memory that may not be wholly true.
As I am growing up, this is beginning to scare me a bit. It makes me feel like I’ve lost something huge. Something important. I know that things happened in the past and they have contributed to who I am today, I just can’t really remember what they were. But there are things that seem really valuable, really essential, like memories of my mother or things that I learned in school – as these things slip further and further into the past, they become things that are still sort of a part of me, but I don’t actually have them anymore. Not really. I feel like humans are in the business of making memories, but what happens when those memories just disappear? Some say that you only remember the important things or the things you want to remember, but I’m really beginning to disagree with that (For instance: I want to remember everything about my mother, but I still forget).

Anyway, this is becoming more…serious (for lack of a better word) than I meant for it to be, so I think I’ll stop there …I never quite know what I’m really thinking and/or feeling about something until I write it out 😛

…And maybe this isn’t even a big deal. Maybe this is all just part of growing up. Maybe this is normal.

Questions of Identity

Recently, I was working on a trial-run-basis for a small business as a receptionist. I worked for them for about a week and a half (I didn’t end up getting hired, but I’m not going to go into that because that is not what this post is about). While I worked there, I worked full-time almost every day of the week. Since I was spending so much of my time working there and it was so different from how I had previously been spending my time, I noticed that I started to feel…different. And not in the way that I would have expected. I started to see myself differently – not better, not worse, just different. I felt like I was a different person, but only just. Like my identity was somehow shifted because I spent a good amount of my time being a receptionist rather than, say, a writer, or a cook, etc. And I started to feel a bit strange. I started asking questions of myself that I didn’t really have time to answer, nor even really think about. The main question was this: Am I really defined by what I do? By how I spend my time? If I am spending my time doing something different, does my identity change? (okay I guess that is more than one question…but hey, teachers do that all the time…).
After I found out that I didn’t have the job, I started to think seriously about what I really want to do with my time. Should I really push to do something that I have a passion for, or should I simply find something that I am qualified to do that helps me pay the bills? Should I save my passions for the things that I do outside of the workforce? I don’t really think there is an easy answer for those questions.
Is my identity defined by what I do or by how I do them? Or, perhaps I should ask: How is identity defined? What is my identity, really? As a Christian, there are some easy answers: I am a created being made in the image of the Creator; I am a child of God, chosen and saved by grace; I am a part of the church, the bride of Christ; and so on and so forth. Then there are the relational answers: I am a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin, a friend, an acquaintance, a stranger, a subordinate. Or the general: I am a human, a female, a 22-year-old, an American of European decent, a college graduate, an introvert, a redhead. But we know that there is more to a person than these things. God is complex and creative and  He made us complex and distinctive. So what else is it that defines us? How do we really say who a person is? And, moreover, does it really matter? It feels like it matters, but that doesn’t mean that it does.

…I realize that this post is very unsatisfying and is basically one gigantic question-mark… but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to post a comment or communicate with me by any other means. I am especially interested in any scripture references that might speak to this topic.

Quick Snapshots: Serving With Joni and Friends

Last month (April 1-6), I had the privilege to serve as a Short Term Missionary (hereafter referred to as STM) at the Joni and Friends Family Retreat at Wonder Valley. Honestly, when I first agreed that I would do this, I wasn’t really giving it much thought…I just knew that I had the time, would probably be able to raise the funds, and could be of service to someone who needed it. I had heard about this camp before, having written about it for my church newsletter a while back, and I was interested in the things that they were doing there. So, I went into it thinking, “this could be a neat experience.” Let me tell you now, “neat” was a gross underestimation.

[I’ve broken this up into parts because that’s kind of how my brain works…]

Part 1: Leading up to camp

Wonder Valley

Let me start off by telling you a bit more about this camp, in case you are not familiar with it. Joni and Friends Family Retreats are week-long (roughly) camps for families who are affected by disability (whether it be physical, developmental, etc). Typically, it is one or more of the children in the family who have a disability, but the rest of the family is affected by this as well. Caring for these children is not an easy task and these families are on the job every single day. These retreats give these families the opportunity to have a vacation. Not only do they get time together as a family doing fun things that may or may not usually be accessible to them, but they also get some time to be around their own age groups, kids playing with other kids and adults spending time with other adults, and generally getting to be around people who can relate to them. One of the major ways that these retreats make all of these things possible is by assigning trained volunteers (STMs) to each family for the purpose of serving and aiding them throughout the week.

As the week of camp drew nearer and nearer, I started to think about what serving as an STM would require of me. I became a bit worried as I started to realize just how self-centered I am and how much I am used to taking care of my own wants and needs before considering others. This is a troubling thing to begin with, but it was even more disturbing to me as I knew that I was entering into a situation in which I would need a selfless, servant-hearted attitude in order to accomplish what I had signed up for. I did not want to be a poor representation of Christ to whomever I was assigned. I wanted to please the Lord by reflecting His character, and I knew that I would not be able to do so by my own strength and “will power.” Humility and servant-heartedness are things that do not come naturally to sinful mankind, but are only accomplished by the grace of God. And so, I prayed for God to change me, even if it were just for that week, into one who regards others as more important than myself (Phil. 2:3).

Part 2: Training and Preparations

The group of STMs from my church. We bonded together as we served over the week.

Arriving at camp, the STM’s had about a day and a half of training to get through before the families arrived. We bonded together, learning about various disabilities and how to deal with different things that we might encounter and so on and so forth. Something that really meant a lot to me and remained with me throughout the week, and indeed, after that week, was that in order to serve in such a way that would display the love of Christ, we must constantly come to Him in prayer and depend completely on the grace of God.

All throughout the first day (the day before the families arrived), I was nervous, not knowing which family I would be assigned to. I kept thinking that once I knew who my camper was and what disability my camper had, then I would know, more or less, what I was going to be dealing with and could start preparing my mind and praying more specifically about my assigned family. That night, when we got our assignments, I learned that I would be caring for a 4 year-old boy who had autism. My first thought was, “now I still don’t know what I’m dealing with.” As you may or may not know, autism sort of ranges from mild to severe and the affects of it vary from person to person. So, all I could really count on was that I would have to adapt and learn as I went. And so, I began praying even harder for the week to go smoothly and for my assigned family to be able to relax, enjoy themselves, and really experience the love of Christ. It was nice to finally be able to pray for them by name.

Part 3: Meeting my Camper/family and getting started

Left to Right: Fellow STM Rebekah, my camper Nathan, parents Edie and Bun, Rebekah’s camper Gabriel, and me.

As the time (the second day) for me to actually meet my assigned camper and family drew nearer, I became more and more nervous. Thankfully, I had many brothers and sisters in Christ around me who could encourage and pray for me. When I finally laid eyes on my precious little camper and his equally-as-precious twin brother, my excitement and joy won-out and my nervousness was no where to be seen. To my delight, the mother and father of my camper turned out to be very kind and loving people and I felt a connection with the whole family almost instantly. I quickly learned about my camper and his twin brother (who also has autism – he was assigned another STM and we worked together a lot of the time), their little quirks, cleverness, character, and the differences between them. By the end of that first day of serving my camper and his family, there was already so much love in my heart for them; all I wanted to do was spend time with them and help them with whatever they needed or wanted. I couldn’t keep from smiling as I realized that there was literally no place in the world that I would rather have been at that moment, than right where the Lord had placed me. The Lord had, indeed, already answered my prayer.

Part 4: The rest of the week/concluding thoughts

My camper, Nathan (right), and his brother, Gabriel (left), loved the wagon 🙂

All throughout the week, my days were very busy, and I noticed that I had a lot more energy and stamina than usual, which could only have come from the Lord. I remember feeling so blessed. It was so satisfying to spend my entire day serving someone else and not focusing so much on myself. I enjoyed watching the parents of my camper relax and enjoy themselves, having extra hands to take care of things. I loved looking around and seeing so many families in such a happy state, in which they did not have all the usual troubles weighing on their shoulders. It was so neat to be in a place where everyone could just be themselves. If a child began screaming or doing other things that would usually be considered “disruptive” or “rude,” it was received with understanding and grace rather than judgmental stares and ignorant whispers. If ever a parent felt overwhelmed, there was someone there to help lighten the load. All of us STMs worked really hard throughout the week, but it was some of the most satisfying work we had ever done. I know from my own experience, and from talking to other STMs, that we left that camp feeling as though we were more blessed by the families we served and the work that God had done in our hearts than we had even anticipated. I really did not want to leave that place. I had grown so attached to my camper and family as well as the overall environment of the camp – so much so that I had a good cry as I was leaving the camp to go back home.

It was truly an eye-opening experience that I will not soon forget. My whole outlook on service has been altered for the better, as has my understanding of families affected by disability. The Lord has used this experience to grow my desire for service and my love for others. I would urge everyone to prayerfully consider trying something like this at least once. I promise you, it will be an unforgettable experience that you are likely to carry with you for the rest of your life. And, if you are like me, you will quickly decide that this is something you want to be involved with every year.

If you would like to know more about Joni and Friends, you can visit their website at: http://www.joniandfriends.org/

Please feel free to ask/talk to me more about the camp if you feel so inclined 🙂 I was not super specific in this blog because I didn’t want it to be too long and also because I wasn’t sure how detailed I should get about my particular family and whatnot. However I am open to talking about it on a one-on-one sort of basis. 🙂

Precious boys ❤

Lacking Control

Something that has become more and more evident to me through the things I am experiencing this year is that I am not in control. Of anything. Sure, I have responsibilities, I have my own domain over which I have some authority, but ultimately, I have no control. Something else that I have learned is to be thankful for this simple fact. I am not in control, but I know the sovereign God who is. I am so glad that it is He who is in control of my life and not me. What a mess I could make of things.

So, of which experiences am I speaking? Well, there have been a number of things, but I’ll give you the one that seemed to spark the flame that started this wildfire. Earlier this year, I was sitting in a plane staring out the window. My flight was late at night. The sky was completely black and, looking out, I could see nothing, unless I looked down at the man-made lights below (until, of course I was too far up to even see those). It gave me such a feeling…it is difficult to explain. But just looking out there, seeing nothing and knowing that if we were to fall, nothing would catch us…knowing that I was in this improbable machine that is just so heavy it seems like it should never be able to fly up in the sky…knowing that I could not control the plane, but had to trust a stranger to pilot it…knowing all of these things and really thinking about them made me feel strangely free. I felt calm, yet also exhilarated, especially when I realized that my whole life is like this. I am not the one in control. I could plan to fly to a specific destination at a specific time, but the plane could arrive somewhere else entirely at a time that I deem undesirable, or the plane could fall out of the sky and crash to the ground. It is not in my hands. And I know that wherever my plane may land (or crash) is right where it was intended to go all along. It is the right place for me to glorify God in whichever way He has ordained. My attitude toward this should never be anything but thankfulness, reverence, and joyfulness.

What about the things that I do? The things that I have a knack for? What about creativity? Yes, God is sovereign over that, too. I can’t just turn it on. When I want to write something, I can’t just flip a switch and have all my creative juices ready to flow when I need them. In fact, creativity and being able to create things only exist in us because we are made in the image of the original Creator; the one who had the brilliant idea to create everything we see (and don’t see). He invented creativity. He even created the things that we use to create other things.

Since I am now finished with school (have been since mid-December!), I have expected that I would have more time to write and that I would be working on some new project by this point in the year. Sure, I’ve scribbled down a few ideas here and there, but nothing that I’ve really felt the urge to develop. I’ve tried various tricks that usually spark my creativity and imagination, but the things I’ve come up with have been utterly dry. When my friends have asked me if I’ve been working on anything new, I’ve had to sheepishly inform them that I have not. I kept wondering what was wrong with me. Maybe I’m not a writer after all…maybe it was just a phase that is now over. Just letting that thought cross my mind stung horribly. I knew it couldn’t have just been a phase because I still had a passion for it. Then I realized…my talent, my creativity, my abilities do not come from me. The only reason I am ever able to write something worth reading is because God has granted it to me. When I stopped focusing on myself and what I could be doing to fix the problem, I resolved to stop worrying about it. If God wants me to write, I will write. If He wants me to have ideas, I’ll have ideas. He is in control. He calls the shots. And when my mind was finally in that place, where writing wasn’t about me and didn’t come from me, I still had writer’s block, but I was okay with that. And when I finally had an idea that I wanted to run with, and I finally felt like that word drought was being washed away by a gracious rainfall, I knew who to thank and who to continue to depend on. And it most definitely was not me.

Image

May I always depend on the Lord for the ability to fill those pages!

All That’s Left Standing

About a month ago, my brother and I drove up to visit some family. They live in a city near San Francisco. It is always nice to get away and visit loved ones whom are not often seen, but going away like that is always bittersweet. It is great to be around other people and to be in a different environment, not having to worry about the normal stresses that always seem to pop up at home, but being away also makes me realize how much I actually like being home. Perhaps it is selfish, but I like having my own room, a bathroom with everything just as I have decided to place it, a kitchen in which I can find anything I need without having to open every cupboard door. I like being able to drive without directions, knowing where I want to go and how to get there. I like being able to see my close friends by driving only a few minutes. It causes me to realize that, even though the place that I live is not the most exciting place, I like it here and I miss it when I’m away. But perhaps I allow myself to be too comfortable. [Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I really enjoyed visiting… as I said… bittersweet].

Well anyway, that was not what this post was going to be about… that was sort of a rabbit trail. What I really wanted to talk about is this: driving around in San Francisco (or riding around, since I wasn’t driving) and seeing the older architecture, passing by a graveyard with its bright white tombstones and walking in a park, seeing benches with little plaques on them, dedicated to various people… these things get my mind going. I begin to imagine. I like seeing those old houses, not only because they are aesthetically pleasing, but also because of all the possibilities of places for my mind to explore. I imagine what this place looked like when it was new, what the city was like, who lived there, who has replaced them over the years and who lives there now. There are so many stories represented by just one building that I will probably never know. It is like this with graveyards and memorials as well. All those names. They represent someone that was most likely loved and missed when they died. They represent lives lived by mostly ordinary people that are only memories until those remembering are no longer living. They represent stories [and I love stories].At one point during our little vacation, we walked through a little concert park within Golden Gate Park. As I briefly mentioned earlier, there were rows and rows of green, wooden benches, most of them with little bronze plaques on the place where spectators would rest their backs. These fascinated me because most of these plaques had the names of people to whom the benches were detected. Many of which had been deceased at the time of the dedication as indicated by the words “In Memory.” Memory. That’s all that these are. Memories. These names are representative of loved ones lost whom the living feel the the utmost necessity to keep alive somehow through memory. This feeling is all too familiar to me, having been trying to keep the memory of my mother alive for a little over three years now. But I think, because of my own experience, this idea fascinates me quite a bit. I can’t help but ask the question, hopefully without sounding insensitive: Is it truly important to remember the dead, or do we only make it thus to make ourselves feel comforted? I understand remembering important people in history for reasons that are obvious, but what about ordinary people? Who, besides me, really stops and looks at old buildings or tombstones or plaques and tries to imagine who these objects represent? And of those, who really knows who these people actually are? Who remembers them now, when those holding them in memory are no longer living? Does it really matter on this earth? It seems that these buildings and names etched in stone and metal are all that are left standing to really memorialize these people. And it all feels so important, but is it really?

Now, I hope that I have not stepped on any toes. I mean no disrespect to those who have passed away and those who miss them. Believe me, I feel that the remembrance of my mother is extremely important… but it is important only to those who knew her or those who are close to me now and care about the things that I care about. So, here I am talking more about whether it is important for others to remember these people. When my mom passed away, I wanted the whole world to stop and remember who she was and to pay their respects to her. But, obviously, that is illogical and unnecessary. This is what I am talking about. All those people forgotten. It could seem like a sad and horrible thing, but I would venture to say that it is not. And, for some reason, I find that fascinating.

[Feel free to discuss this with me in person or in comments or however you communicate with me. I’ve sort of kept these thoughts stewing in my own mind for a while and would be interested to see how others would contribute to or change my thoughts.]

Little Reminders

Arriving home from a short vacation, I had so many plans for the week ahead. There are people to spend time with, projects to finish and a messy bedroom to clean. But just before I left to head home, I began to feel sick. I didn’t feel too terrible at first, thinking I would probably feel better soon and would still be able to go about my week with all the things that I was so confident I would be able to do. But the illness got worse upon my arrival home and the next morning I felt more sick than I have in over three years. I became useless, not being able to stand for very long and not having the strength to do anything that wasn’t a sedentary activity.

I am reminded, here, of a few different things. First off, there is nothing like illness that reminds me so well of the effects of sin and the utter weakness of mankind. Second: Proverbs 16:9 which says “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” and James 4:14-15 which says “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.'” I am reminded that I don’t have as much control of my life, as I often think that I do. God is sovereign over everything. I had planned to do so many things, but He planned for me to slow down and realize my dependance on Him. He has reminded me that I am but a feeble human and the only way that I can accomplish anything is by the strength that He gives me.

I find joy in the fact that the Lord can bring all of this to my attention by simply allowing me to catch the flu (or whatever this is).

At Least It’s Still February…

I have been thinking about Valentine’s Day… that is, I am still thinking about Valentine’s Day, even though it is long gone and I have many other things to occupy my thoughts. I have been meaning to share my thoughts on this holiday, but school has a funny way of preventing me from doing such things… such things as blogging, that is. As February 14th came closer and closer, I kept telling myself, “I’ll write a Valentine’s Day blog!” and as I stared the day right in the face, I figured, “I’ll write a blog a day or two from now, and I’ll call it ‘Reflections of Valentines Day,’ or something like that.” But then I just kept on walking, as the 14th waved me away. But I still have these thoughts that I think would make a decent post. And… well… at least it’s still February!

I have always loved Valentine’s day. Always. I have also always been single on Valentine’s Day – single in both the original meaning of being unmarried and the meaning that young people often use to describe a person who is not currently dating. I have never joined the bitter ranks who like to call it Single Awareness Day, snickering to themselves at the imagined cleverness of that acronym, SAD. I haven’t even joined those who brood at the fact that Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday in which corporations brainwash men into thinking that they have to prove their love with diamonds, flowers, chocolates and cards… and those ridiculously large stuffed animals that nobody really knows what do to with. No, I have always found so many reasons to enjoy that day every year of my life. While I do strongly believe that we can show others that we love them every day of the year (and maybe, we actually should), I really like the idea of having a day that is a celebration of love. I like having a day in which I tell people how much I love them and why I love them. I like making cards for people (no matter how much I am lacking in artistic skill). I like eating chocolate with my girl-friends and watching cute movies. I like wearing pink and red and painting my nails just for the fun of it. I like letting my dad and my brother (and in the past, my mom) know, again that I love them and am glad to have them. I love looking through the Bible to find all the verses about love and praising the God who is, Himself, love. I think it is something my mother instilled in me. We always had cards, flowers, scriptures and little gifts between us on Valentine’s day. She always made it special, and I intend to keep it special.

I honestly don’t see why Valentine’s Day should be only for couples-going-on-dates, or elementary-school-children-giving-classmates-tiny-cards. I think our culture has a strange obsession with romantic love that completely discounts other types of love. While romantic love is a beautiful, wonderful thing, so is love between two friends and love between brother and sister or father and daughter. What is it about romantic love that makes so many people think it is the sole purpose for living? I notice so many people being depressed on Valentines Day because they “have no one,” but they are actually surrounded by people who love and care about them. I have never considered myself to be “alone on Valentine’s Day” and I don’t think that I ever will be. There is more to love than just romance and attraction.

… But anyway, I sort of ran out of steam there at the end, but I think you get my point. Perhaps I would have written this much better had I done it sooner while the thoughts were much fresher. Ah well…

It’s Coming…

So, we are coming to the end of October. You know what that means…
Halloween?
Yes, but…no.
Midterms?
No!
Daylight savings…?
No no no. NaNoWriMo of course!
What’s that?
National Novel Writing Month! NaNoWriMo! That’s right, it’s time to prepare to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Yep, just 30 days.
Why on earth would you do that to yourself?
I don’t really know how to answer that.

[End of annoyingly stupid segment in which I talk to myself with the purpose of distracting the reader from realizing that I’m really no good at starting these things. Also-to quickly tell the reader what NaNoWriMo is.]

I have attempted NaNoWriMo twice so far and have failed both times. However, last year was a definite improvement from the previous year. I am hopeful that I will get even further this time…maybe I’ll even win this year. The odds are definitely against me, though. The last two years, I came to November prepared. I had story ideas that I was excited about and characters ready to be developed. This year…I’ve got nothing. I have no idea what I’m going to write about. Sure, I’ve started brainstorming, but nothing has really jumped out to me. I don’t like the ideas that I’ve come up with, so I’ve trashed them. Another thing that could hinder me is schoolwork. My classes this semester are a lot more demanding than the classes I’ve taken in the past. So…this will be interesting. I came very close to talking myself out of even attempting NaNoWriMo this year, but I just couldn’t back down. I just have to try. There is always time to write, and the fact that a NaNoWriMo novel doesn’t need to be good–in fact, it’s doubtful that anyone will read it besides me–takes away a lot of the pressure. It might even be refreshing after writing so many things for school assignments that actually need to be well-written. I can just come home and write as carelessly as I wish. And that’s really the point of NaNoWriMo. To just write. It doesn’t need to be good. You don’t have to impress anyone. Nobody cares. Just get the words down. Create something. It’s a terrible and wonderful thing.

So, I know I haven’t really sold it very well, but I do highly recommend it. It really is a good exercise. So, if NaNoWriMo sounds like something you’d like to do, head on over to www.nanowrimo.org and create a profile!
Also, if you are interested in tracking my progress, or if you want to add me as a writing buddy, you can check out my NaNoWriMo profile here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/459521

November 1st is coming!

The Effects of Music

When I listen to really good music, I get this…feeling. It’s very difficult to explain, but I’m sure there are others who can relate, so…those people will get it. It’s not just the lyrics…in fact it usually has nothing to do with the vocals or words (though this is not always the case). It’s the music. When I hear a song that was very well written (musically), I feel it deep in my chest. Like my heart is swelling with awe and is about to burst through my ribcage. Does that sound painful? I don’t mean for it to sound painful. In fact, the feeling often puts a smile on my face. As I read over this, I realize that this all sounds very strange and possibly far-fetched. I think this is because I don’t know how to adequately describe this phenomenon. But I think I’ve seen others experiencing similar things when they observe other beautiful things in the world. I have a friend who just about explodes with excitement when she sees a sunset, and another who gasps at the sight of a beautifully lit photograph, and still another who somehow finds beauty in mathematics (I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand that one, haha). Sometimes, I also get this feeling when I read really good literature or poetry. I think it’s because we are reacting to the complexity and creativity of the One who created it all. And I’ve noticed something with music, regardless of whether or not the artist is aiming to glorify God, he still can, despite his motives. It is the creative ability that God has given him that brings the glory. So, I may be listening to music that was not made by a Christian, but it still can cause me to look upward. I love this. God can take our self-serving deeds and make them into something that we never intended. Also, the fact that we are imitating God, by creating something is quite interesting. The creation reflects the Creator.

So anyway, I was wondering if there are any others out there who know what I’m talking about. Are there particular songs that have this effect on you?
Some songs that always seem to do this to me are:
1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky,
The Crane Wife 1 & 2 by the Decemberists,
The Call Of Ktulu by Metallica (got to love metal instrumentals),
The Dress Looks Nice On You by Sufjan Stevens,
Cologne by Ben Folds,
…and pretty much anything that is sung by a Chorus, especially the one at my church 😉

There are also some songs whose lyrics can get to me in this way. For me, these songs are usually Christian songs. The one I can think of off the top of my head is Building A Sorrowful Loveliness by Telecast (the music of this song gets to me too, but I like the lyrics even more). I especially like the chorus of this song: “Nothing is certain, but I’m certain of You / Pull back this curtain, let your light in this room / And all that’s true, I find in You / The more I drink of Your word / The more I thirst for You”
Various hymns have this effect too, like Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Especially this verse: “O to grace how great a debtor / Daily I’m constrained to be! / Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, / Bind my wandering heart to Thee. / Prone to wanter, Lord, I feel it, / Prone to leave the God I love; / Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, / Seal it for Thy courts above.”

I may be procrastinating…

I’m . . . back?

So . . . this is awkward. My last blog post was posted three months shy of a full year ago. A lot can happen in that amount of time. Unfortunately, I somehow managed to decide that none of that was worth blogging about. And now I am out of practice. Let me clarify: 1. There were many blog-worthy events that have happened during this silent era and 2. I have been writing, just not blogging . . . there is a difference.

I’m wondering if anyone is going to read this, since it has been so long, and everyone who read it before probably suspects that this page is cold and buried. I do miss doing this and really want to start doing it again more regularly, but I need to get back into the swing of things. So this is sort of a test run for me to see if I can still do this style of writing.

Goodness, this must be a boring read. I apologize. You have my permission to fix your attentions elsewhere. Perhaps you are waiting to hear back from a friend on Facebook, or you’re wondering if the Vlogbrothers have posted a new video on Youtube today. Go right ahead. Click away, this is merely a practice post. I’ll think of something more interesting to talk about next time. Perhaps tomorrow. No . . . I’ll be finishing the homework that I’m supposed to be doing right now.

Speaking of homework . . . That is probably the main contributing factor to my absence here. Especially this semester. I am taking a Creative Writing: Creative Non-Fiction class. I have been reading a lot and working on a piece for this class. I am writing a memoir-style short story. I am estimating that it will be 15 to 20 pages long. That seemed daunting at first, but the more I get into it, the more it seems that it might actually be longer.
I’m not really sure if I’m actually enjoying writing it. Not that I’m hating it, or anything. It’s just . . . difficult. I’m writing about the experience of losing my mom. I’ve told the story to various people before, so I thought it wouldn’t be that hard. But it is. It most certainly is. I’m hitting so many road blocks that I can’t really imagine reaching my destination anymore. I will, but it’s not going to be easy. It’s a hard place to revisit and my memory has been failing me in certain areas where my story is begging for details. I have to be vigilant in my constant struggle against explaining my emotions and coming off as whiney and pathetic. I definitely think that this class is growing me as a writer. There are so many things that I didn’t even take into account before. Like showing rather than telling and trusting my audience.
I have to keep reminding myself why I am writing this story. It is not necessarily for sympathy. I am writing it because I sort of need to write it. I’ve gotten it out verbally, now I need to get it out textually. I understand my thoughts and memories better when I have written them out. I am writing this story because I don’t want the pictures to fade as they are already. I am writing this story because revisiting the sight reminds me of the things that I have learned. I am writing this story because it could possibly have a positive affect on someone else . . . not that I’m necessarily going to let everyone read it 😛 .  But anyway, I’m not sure if this is a story that needs to be told or needs to be heard (or read) but I am compelled to write it nonetheless.

So, anyway, that was a little glimpse of what my mind has been going through over the past few months. I hope it was slightly interesting to read. If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with it 😛 . As mentioned before, I’m just trying to get back into this because I miss it.     . . . also, I was having trouble with my homework and needed a break 🙂 .

Hopefully I’ll keep at this.

Short Indeed.

The other day, my dad took me up to arrowhead to meet an old high school friend of his. While we were on our way up the mountain we came to some slow-moving traffic. After a little while, we saw that the left lane was closed off and there were many emergency vehicles up ahead. Naturally, we expected to see two damaged automobiles, but what we saw was far from what was expected. As we approached the place where the emergency vehicles were stopped, I could see some twisted metal approaching. My jaw dropped and an involuntary gasp escaped my mouth as I saw what was causing the commotion. A mangled pick-up truck was sticking out of the pavement. It had fallen front-first and collided with the road. It must have hit with quite a bit of force because the truck-bed that stuck out from the ground was bent back and skewed. I looked to my right to see where the truck undoubtedly had fallen from, it was quite a long drop. I’m sorry to say, there is no way the driver could survive such a crash. We drove past the horrible scene and continued up the mountain. We came to a turnout that was occupied by a few emergency vehicles. My dad, being a curious fireman, decided to stop in the turnout as well. We looked over the edge but it was sort of hard to see the road below the cliff as there were plants and rocks in our view. But we could tell that this was the place where the truck had fallen from. My dad told me that there is no way this was an accident. The driver must have done it on purpose because it was quite a large turnout and there would have been plenty of time to hit the breaks before accelerating off the edge. We got back in the car and talked about what we had seen. I couldn’t get over the thought of what it must have been like to be falling off a cliff from such a height. I couldn’t imagine what was going through that person’s mind. The rest of our day went on just fine, I met my dad’s high school friend and his family and all that (lovely people by the way) and while we were out in Arrowhead Village they ran into a man who my dad’s friend knew. He’s a fireman, so he knew a bit about the crash we had seen earlier. Turns out it was a suicide. It was so intense to realize that I had witnessed the aftermath of someone’s decision to end their own life. I thought about that person and what could have possibly driven them to do such a thing. I thought of the shock and pain that those who knew him must have felt when they found out what had happened.
I’ve actually been thinking about death quite a bit recently. I am probably not the only one what with all these recent celebrity deaths. But I have mainly been reflecting on the death of my mother. After a year it is still incredibly strange for me to realize that she died. It seems like it shouldn’t have happened; nobody saw it coming.  I look back and realize that there have been so many deaths close to me in the past year or so (people that I knew personally or people that I knew of). I think because of all this, I am beginning to hold on quite loosely to life and the lives around me. I am almost expecting that everyone is going to die around me. Of course if someone else close to me dies, I will be devastated, but I don’t think I would be all that surprised. The feebleness of human life is more evident to me than it has ever been before. I have always known that everyone has to die sometime, but I never quite grasped it as I have now. So the truth that I’m getting at in this relentless rambling is that life is short. I know, I know, you’ve heard that a million times. But if you really sit and think about it, it can cause you to change your outlook. Thinking about these things has made me realize that there is so much more I want to do. So much more I should be striving for. I haven’t been glorifying God with all this time that He has allotted to me. I’ve been spending so much time on selfish enjoyments and desires instead of fulfilling my true purpose: to point to the King. I hope and pray that others will come to similar realizations and use what little time is left to serve the Lord. Our lives are so short compared to eternity, we only get a few years here on this earth and many of us are using it to make ourselves miserable in the attempt to find happiness. We need to stop thinking so much about ourselves and focus our attentions on the Creator.

Deuteronomy 6:5  (NASB)
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Ecclesiastes 12:6  (NASB)
“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgement, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”

I Need to Practice!

Obviously, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a new blog post…I’m not entirely sure why that is. The semester ended about a month ago, so I really could have been more active with my writing and whatnot. But, for some reason I’ve shied away from it. “It” being writing of course. It’s strange because I really love to write, but for quite some time now I have been neglecting, my journal, blog, and novel. I started to write a new blog a few weeks ago, but I saved it as a draft and never finished it for some reason (haha). I only recently started working on my book again, which is good…I really want to get some sort of draft done by the end of the year. Well anyway…I am going to try to write a lot more often, especially now that I have a lot more time on my hands, as school is out and I’m still looking for employment. However, the main reason that I have decided to jump back into writing is because a new opportunity has come about.
I recently went over to a friend’s house to talk and have breakfast. We talked about things we are going through and things the Lord has been showing us. Then we played battleship and between our firings of “E-4” and “A-7” my friend would ask me random questions and we’d go off on little tangents. We somehow came to the subject of my love of writing. I told her a bit about the book I’m working on and whatnot and then she got excited and I could tell that some sort of connection was being made in her mind. She told me about an opportunity in our church. She said that a lady was looking for someone who could write about different events and goings on in the church for missionaries and other brothers and sisters who are not able to be there. This opportunity is right up my alley! I have been wanting to become more involved in this church and I also have always wanted to use my writing for some purpose other than my own personal gain. I talked to the lady today at church and gave her my information, so hopefully, I will be able to serve the church in this way soon. But, for now, I think I need to keep my hands typing and my pen moving. I feel I am a bit rusty with my words and I could use some practice and warming up. So hopefully, I’ll be more frequent in my blogging from now on. If you have any constructive criticism for me, do tell! 🙂

New Light on Easter Weekend

Part One: Good Friday

On Good Friday I woke up a bit late, I hurried to get ready for a 12 PM church service. As I was finishing up with styling my hair, I imagined my mother knocking on the door and asking if I was almost ready. It struck me that this was going to be my first easter weekend without my mom. I thought back to last year: this time last year I had no idea that my mom would be gone in a little less than a month. I began to tear up. We should be going to this service together, I thought. My dad was at work, so, in my house, I was completely alone. The silence was really starting to get to me. I began to feel more and more upset, wanting so badly to have my mother there with me. As I continued to get ready for the service, I continued to cry about it all. I kept on praying for God to take my mind off of it. I asked Him to comfort me and help me to focus on what Good Friday was all about, because, clearly I did not have things in perspective. Then He brought a comforting thought to my mind: I’m celebrating Good Friday, the day that Christ died for our transgressions so that we can one day go to heaven and live in paradise with Him for all eternity. My mom is in His presence right now because of what He did for her…and someday I will be there too. How amazing it must be for her, to be with our Lord face-to-face! After thinking about all of this, I no longer wished that my mother was still with me. I became overjoyed for her. She made it. She’s there. Every follower of Christ yearns to be in His presence, and she’s there! What a blessing! With this in mind, I headed off to church and the Lord continued to bless me throughout the day. 

Part Two: Easter sunday

Waking up on Easter Sunday, again I began to feel depressed. I pictured my mom in her blue summer dress, asking me to help her pick out jewelry to wear with it (She used to always call me her “fashion consultant.” 🙂 ). I tried to cheer myself up by reminding myself of the things God showed me on Good Friday, but it only half worked. Holidays will always be hard for me. At church our pastor spoke of the meaning of Easter, which definitely helped me put things into perspective. I was reminded that the resurrection is proof of the accomplishment of the cross, and the deity of Christ. Something that I was also reminded of is that, because Christ rose from the dead, we too can rise and meet Him in heaven.
Sometimes we still get mail addressed to my mother. If it is anything church or ministry related, I take it and open it. A few weeks ago, a newsletter from a ministry called Hope for Today came in the mail for her. I went to my room and opened it. The things that I read from it were very encouraging. It was talking about how we, as christians, have hope beyond the grave. When we die, our spirits will rise to be with the Lord in paradise, just as Christ rose from the dead. It talked about how, if the rapture happens in our lifetime, those who have died in Christ will rise first, and then we will be taken up to join them! (1 Thess. 4:13-18). We will meet with them in the heavens! This brought great comfort to me. Another comforting passage that it listed was this: Revelation 14:13b- “‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors and their deeds follow with them.'”   -My mother is in a place of rest! And she is rewarded for her deeds!

Part Tree: Conclusion

So overall this past weekend, the Lord has blessed me in taking the basic things that I’ve known to be true and caused me to see them in a new light. My mom is an example of why Jesus did what He did, and having this example helps me to understand what that means for me. The gospel message has become more real to me now than ever before. Praise the Lord! 🙂

Parents and Children

Lately, I’ve been thinking about parents. There is something I find quite interesting:

When a couple has a child, it becomes their duty to raise them in such a way that they will contribute well to society and be a decent, respectable person; a person living a purposeful life. They go to great lengths to raise this child in the right way and often worry about whether or not the child will love them. Parents often feel that flaws in their child reflect flaws in their parenting. Meanwhile, this child is always seeking the approval of its parents.  We all just want to be certain that our parents really love us. We all long to hear our parents say “I’m proud of you.” Probably even more so the older we are. So, if you think about it, it’s like a strange cycle: parents are hoping to gain the love and approval of their child (as well as approval in how they raised their child), and children are hoping to gain the love and approval of their parents. This is all in a general sense, of course. There is something there between a parent and child. We need each other. We need each other until we have that final answer: Did I do a good job? Did my child turn out well? Did I make my parents proud? I think it is interesting that we find so much meaning in the answers to such questions. 

Even when a parent has died, as my mother has, one of the main things that floats around in the child’s mind is the question, “Did I make my mother/father proud?” To know that you did, makes all the difference in your coping.

And with parents that are still living, even if they have assured you that they are proud of you, you need re-assurance. Well I know I do, it may be different for others. I think it’s because things seem to change so much, we fear that nothing is constant. 

I don’t really have a point in all of this, it’s just something I was thinking about. I’m not really sure how to wrap this up… Well, if you have any thoughts on this, leave a comment, I’d love to read your thoughts. (by the way, I’m pretty sure  you don’t need to be signed up with this website to leave a comment, so go ahead!)

Why, Hello Again

I don’t really have a plan for this post. I just feel like I hardly ever post new blogs anymore. I used to put them up at least once a week, but now, I think I’ve either run out of things to say, or I’ve lost confidence in my ability to write. I think it’s mostly the second one. I probably am not so sure of my writing anymore because I spend less time reading than I used to. I don’t have as much free time to do so, and when I do have free time I spend it doing other things. More often than not “other things” includes, wasting a lot of time on YouTube. I used to spend my free time either reading a book, writing, spending time with friends or watching television, but now I spend a considerable amount of my time watching new videos from my favorite YouTube channels. Pathetic. Waste. Of. Time. Don’t get me wrong, there are many brilliant and entertaining things on YouTube, but I just don’t think it is very good for someone, such as myself, to spend such a large amount of time on it. But alas, I’ve become addicted. I sign in to YouTube at least three times a day to check if any of the people I am subscribed to have posted a new video. I currently am subscribed to about 52 different channels and I now join in a collaboration channel with some of my friends (no, I will not give you a link to it because, frankly, I am embraced of my lack of speaking skill, or any ability to be interesting…it’s a wonder anybody reads these blogs). There is, however, an upside to my compulsive YouTube-video-watching, I am learning about people (not just specific people, but people in general). It is interesting to see other people’s points of view and how different they are. It is interesting to see what people outside of America think about certain issues. It’s a bit refreshing to look at things from different perspectives.
          But anyway, I guess now I’ll tell you how school is going. That seems to be one of the first things that people ask me about whenever I talk to them. How’s school? Well, it’s going good. This semester is definitely better than last semester. I find all of the subjects that I’m taking to be very interesting and I am learning a lot. It’s also nice that this semester I actually have friends in my classes; It does really make a difference to have friends there. My only complaint about school right now is the reading. Oh the reading! So very much reading! Now, most people are aware that I love to read, but I love to read novels, not textbooks. It is so hard for me to just sit down and read a textbook. Many times I find myself sitting down to read my textbook then a novel catches my eye. “Andrea…” it seems to whisper, “why waste your time with that boring textbook when you could be reading something entertaining.” Seriously. More often than not, I give in the the novel’s tempting whispers and end up not being prepared for class. Go figure. Maybe I should lock up my novels until the end of the semester. Oh, but then I’d lose my sanity!

                     [That second paragraph seems to somewhat contradict the first one….oh well. You can figure it out.]

         There was another thing I wanted to talk about: spring break. Yes, spring break is coming up next month. That wonderful week where I normally just relax and pretend that it’s summer. This time, I’m going to be going up to northern California to visit with some family. I will be riding on a plane by myself! Well…there will be other passengers of course, but by myself in the sense that nobody I know is traveling with me. I’m not afraid of flying (I’ve flown before) so I’m actually rather excited. Then I will get to stay with my aunt and uncle and visit with my cousins. It’s been so long since I’ve actually gone up there, They are normally the ones to travel down here. So, that’s exciting 🙂

Well, I’m pretty sure that’s all I have to say for now. I just thought I’d type out another blog. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. Plus it’s nice to communicate in some way, as my mouth is really numb at the moment (I just got back from the dentist) and I can’t really talk without sounding like I have some sort of speech impediment. I’m so hungry but I can’t eat! AAAAHHHHH!!! Okay, I’m done now. 

Until next time. 🙂

A New Semester and Some Other Ramblings

I started the new semester this week. So far it looks like it will be an interesting semester. Hopefully it won’t be too stressful for me. Two of my classes look like they will be a lot of work and I’ll need to be very disciplined to keep up. I’m taking Cultural Geography, U.S. History, Music Appreciation, and Eastern Philosophy. The two that seem more difficult are the cultural geography and eastern philosophy classes. But luckily both of those class are things that I really want to learn about and am actually quite excited about. The other two classes will be pretty laid back. I think I’ll be extremely busy this semester. I hope I’ll still have time to work on my novel. I need to try not to put that before my school work, though. I hope this semester goes a lot better than last semester did. 

I don’t really have much to say right now. I’m kind of out of it right now because I’ve been doing homework for most of the day. I’m in an extremely quiet, calm mood right now. 

Oh! I don’t think I mentioned on here, I got a new car (well, new to me, it’s used). It’s a 1998 Accord and it’s in really good condition (I named it Captain Accordion). It’s better than my Altima was, so I guess the accident turned out to be a good thing. I actually got the car on my mom’s birthday (Jan. 5) so that’s kind of weird. On that day we just had all the family get together in remembrance of her. We had a cake and sang happy birthday, which seemed odd to me…age no longer exists where she is. After we spent time with the family, my dad and I just hung out together for the rest of the day and I got my car that night. My dad said that she would have liked that I got a car on her birthday. We bought some really colorful flowers to put by her urn. I got a picture of her in a really nice frame for christmas so now that’s up by her urn too, it looks like a little memorial for her. It’s taken me a while, but I am really realizing that God is taking care of me through all of this. I am starting to get a glimpse of how much He loves me. 

So far this year I’m already learning a lot. I think that this year will contain just as much change as last year. And hopefully with less heartache.