Saturday, December 24, 2016

Not-So-Generic Christmas Eve Post

So I'm a pretty huge fan of the rock band Flyleaf - at least, I was when Lacey Sturm was still their lead singer (I feel like a bad person for saying this, but once she left, I just kind of...lost interest). That being said, I'm so happy that Lacey's making her own music, especially stuff like the song above.

The song is called "Mercy Tree," and it's about the Cross of Jesus's crucifixion. I guess that means this song is more appropriate for Easter rather than Christmas, but I've always been one to mix up the natural order of things.

I cry just about every time I watch this music video because of how powerful it is. Lacey sings with so much passion and joy that I can't help but get caught up in it. But the message is what captures me the most, and what I want to talk about now.

Christmas is a time of peace, of giving, of joy and gladness. It's a time for us to reflect on our Savior's birth, when God fulfilled a promise that His people had waited for through centuries of time. Our focus is fixed on the innocence of that humble baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

I like to think ahead, though, past the visions of a peaceful, hopeful, bright, happy manger scene that years of Sunday school as a little kid gave me. As sorrowing as it is, I like to think about that baby's destiny.

We're all born to eventually die, but few of us are born to be brutally crucified.

We all like to think about the part of Jesus's life that's easy to think about - His birth, happy Mary and Joseph, shepherds, wise men, a star. But to turn our attention to the statement above, that Jesus was born to be crucified, because of the sins we can't help but commit?

That's a harder topic to reflect on.

I'm not saying that Christmas shouldn't be spent rejoicing over the birth of Christ and enjoying peace. Jesus's birth was meant to be a beautiful thing - a promise of eternal redemption, of atonement for sin, of grace upon grace. But I do think it's healthy, spiritually, to also reflect on the reason behind the promise: that we, fallen humans, would be eaten alive by our own sin if God didn't send His Son for our redemption. That we, sinners, are whom Jesus left the perfect presence of God to commune and break bread with (Mark 2:15-17). And that we, the broken, cannot mend ourselves.

Two-thousand years ago, a baby was born to die, and a promise was fulfilled. Hope entered people's hearts like a bright light, then fled at the Cross, then returned when Jesus came back to life. Two-thousand years ago, humanity was graced with a baby who was fully human, fully God, and would one day hang naked on a cross, flesh shredded, hands and feet stabbed through with nails, a crown of thorns rent onto His head as blood ran in rivulets down the rough wood.

Pure, innocent blood, the blood of a sacrifice so desperately needed to save us all.

Two-thousand years ago, a baby was born, and because of it, death met its demise, and love won.

Because of it, we're free to celebrate peace and hope.

Because of it, we're eternally redeemed. And all we have to do is believe.

So, my dear readers, merry Christmas.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Fifty-Two Books

For someone who wants to be a published author someday (preferably in the near future), I don't read nearly enough.

I had a decent excuse for not reading half of the library books I checked out this semester - I was in a literature class, and it required a lot of my reading time. But I don't really want to make that an excuse for not reading. I had plenty of time in which I lazily decided that scrolling my Instagram feed was more appealing.

So, despite having signed myself up for a 300-level honors literature college course, I'm making it one of my New Year's resolutions to read 52 books during the year of 2017.

That's one book a week.

I made a list of fifty-two books, but in all likelihood I'll have to trade some of those out for the books I get as reading assignments from class. That's okay - just as long as I do my best to hit the quota, I'll be satisfied. Reading is so important to me, for so many reasons - not just because I've always been a book worm, but because I'm a writer too. Thus, reading, in essence, is work, because by reading I expose myself to other writers' styles, thereby influencing and shaping my own. There are so many benefits to reading - so if you feel up to it, why don't you join me and make a list of your own? Here are a few of the books featured on mine:

Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

I fell in love with this author's writing when I read two of her WWII novels, Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire. I started this new novel of her's earlier this year but didn't finish it - something about it didn't grip me like the others had - yet I still want to, so of course it's on the list! 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Yeah, I know...I'm pretty late on this one. But it's never too late to read a book, amiright?

Needless to say, sad teen romances are not my thing, but I broke down and watched the movie when I found it on TV recently. So naturally, the book made the list (despite the tears/pain/feels the movie caused me).

Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

I follow this author's blog, and her writing is absolutely stunning. I heard about this book a while back and can't wait to get my hands on it. 

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

I had the privilege of hearing Emily P. Freeman speak at a conference in September, and my mom has been recommending this book to me ever since. I've heard it's a must for anyone whose passions lie in the art spectrum. 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Considering what I've heard about Patrick Ness's work, and that there's a movie adaption of this coming out now, I think it's about time to give it a read. 

So there you have it! Five out of fifty-two of my books for 2017. We'll see how far I get - I'll be satisfied if I even make it halfway through, just as long as I'm reading, reading, reading. 

/ / /

What books would you put on your list?


Saturday, December 17, 2016

highlights/things I learned from my first semester of college

So. I have a full semester of college under my belt now. 

It was a whirlwind of experiences, good, bad, stressful, fantabulistic. (I'm making that a word as of now). And by whirlwind I mean it flew by, really, really fast. And I want to take a moment to highlight some of the things that made it as good as it was - so much better than I expected, to be honest. I was homeschooled, and I thought the shift to secular college life would be a massive emotional undertaking. Turns out, I needn't have worried - it went swimmingly. 

So here are some of the highlights, and what I learned from them.

1. Honors college orientation

The week before classes started, I went to a four-day honors college orientation retreat at a camp with a couple hundred other college freshman kids. I was nervous at first, unsure about making friends and of how different they might be from the people I was used to hanging out with - how different they might be from me. Turns out, they were likewise just a bunch of kids trying to learn how to both adult and enjoy themselves in a new college setting. Those four days were spent building friendships, learning about college life, swimming in the lake, rock climbing, and staying up late with cabin mates. It ended in a giant spirit contest that involved skits and screaming the college fight song about 4,782 times around a three-story bonfire. (At least, it seemed that tall to me and was hot enough that I couldn't even get close to roast my marshmallow). The friendships that I made there were vital to my transition into college. It was an experience I'll never forget. I learned that one of the nice things about college is that when you're starting out, everyone's in the same boat. Sure, we all come from different backgrounds, but as long as you're capable of asking, "Hey, what's your name?" and "So what's your major?" you won't have trouble making friends. 

2. Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM)


Can I just.

Oh, BCM. 

I met the president of my university's BCM over the summer, and she helped me get involved with the ministry. I showed up on the night when they assigned Freshman Family Groups (Bible study/support groups with an upperclassmen "mom" and "dad" as leaders, in which you have fellow freshmen for brothers and sisters) and it just got better and better from there. If it hadn't been for my family group and the other people that I befriended at the BCM over the last 3 months, my semester would have been infinitely less fun. Not to mention, they helped me stay on track in my faith, which is even more important. 

From BCM, I learned the importance of getting involved with people who share the same values as you, and who can help you stay grounded in your beliefs. I got to witness a group of college kids actively seeking and sharing Jesus among themselves and with others. It was an amazing reminder of how much influence young people can have (1 Tim. 4:12). I can't wait to see where God takes this campus ministry. 

3. My professors

I had the coolest professors ever. And I was super nervous about that, too, going in. I thought they were all going to be either boring or intimidating. Turns out, they're just people too. And fun people, at that. My geology professor was a shorter woman with long, dark hair, who liked classic rock music and always put an inspirational quote up on the screen every Monday. "Motivational Monday" she called it. My Folk Studies professor was a really nice woman with a nose piercing and an engaging folklore course. I had two professors that were both named Dr. Kim - one, a literature professor who challenged and encouraged me in my first-ever college English class, gave me a hug the last day I saw him, and sent me one of the nicest emails I've ever received, and the other a very chill and lenient psychology professor who gave us candy before every exam. 

I learned that most professors respect you, and they notice when you respect them in turn. They notice when you listen, and when you put forth an effort. Getting to know my professors was a word of advice that I applied over the semester, and it helped me in so many ways. And they were awesome people, which made it easy. 

4. So...I had my first date. 

I met a guy at the BCM, and by the end of the semester he asked me to go ice skating with him and a couple other friends at the new ice skating rink in town. I hadn't dated up until then, and didn't quite know what I was doing, but I liked him, and I accepted. And it was fun - except we didn't get to ice skate. I had an orchestra concert that evening which they came to, but it ran late and the rink closed before we could get there. However, we went to the city square instead and meandered under the Christmas lights, talking. And then we drove around town and ended up hanging out at Steak 'n Shake until 2:30 a.m.

I'd never done anything like that before, hanging out in town with people my age until almost three in the morning. And it was so much fun. I learned once again that not everything always goes according to plan (we did get to go ice skating eventually, though), and if you just go with the flow, it can still be fun and memorable. I also learned that first dates aren't necessarily what you imagine them to be; my first date was basically us four college kids loitering at the town square and then chilling at Steak 'n Shake, chatting about everything from morality to Marvel movies and flicking sugar packets at each other over fries and milkshakes. It was fun and comfortable, and I wouldn't have changed a thing about it. 


I love my campus. It's spacious and beautiful, with countless places to hang out and study in both good and bad weather. The cafeteria serves food that meets all of my dietary needs, and once the weather turned cool I'd go there, get a hot meal in a to-go box, and hole away in a study nook in the building to do homework. Before that, when the weather was warmer, I had a routine of studying in the library between classes, then finding a bench or a flat rock to sit on and eating my lunch in the sunshine. I got to walk anywhere, drive anywhere, and ride with anyone anywhere that I wanted to go, staying out late, going places with my BCM group, and attending social events different groups at my university hosted. The newfound taste of freedom was liberating, and thankfully, I have good parents who taught me how to use it wisely. I learned that it's good to hang out past your bedtime sometimes, but there's a fine line between prioritizing your social life and prioritizing homework. As an introvert, I didn't find this too much of a challenge - eleven o'clock is when I start to wear down at social events that last late - but there were still a few times that I ended up saving homework for the morning of. (Not recommended). 

So there you have it. Five highlights. There were many more - weekly lunches with friends, interesting class projects, and some very exciting educational opportunities, to name a few. There were also lots of stressful, not-so-good moments, of course. But overall, my first taste of college completely surpassed my expectations in the best ways, and my heart is full to the brim with gratitude toward my faithful God for that. I was more than ready for my winter break when finals ended, but I already miss my new friends, and look forward to what next semester holds.


Monday, December 5, 2016

The One About Worship

"Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell in it;" 

Psalm 98:7

In my morning devotion today, I ran into this verse that I've encountered so many times. I love it. There's something untamed and poetic about it. The passage it comes from is praise-focused, and it's one of those verses at the end that just jumps out at you. 

It got me thinking. For a long time growing up, I didn't realize what worship really is. In fact, my understanding of it is still a work in progress. What I knew of worship as a kid was that it meant gripping the back of the pew in front of me and singing a lot of the same hymns on repeat. Same verses, too. My church wasn't rigid, but the attendants weren't the hand-raising type, either. For a distracted kid who was a little bored and a little hungry and not listening to the message like she should have been, it left me with an imprint that worship was mundane. 

Then I started going to Christian concerts and youth conferences. That elevated my understanding of worship to a whole new level. People sang at the top of their lungs, raised their hands, closed their eyes, swayed, danced. At first it seemed real (and I'm not saying it wasn't). I thought, Surely they're all experiencing the presence of God, surely what they're doing is right, but I'm not feeling it. So, what's wrong with me?

After a few years, I stopped trying to fit in. If I wasn't moved, if I didn't feel like raising my hands or singing at the top of my lungs, I didn't. Because worship isn't being a copycat. It's much more authentic and personal than that. 

So what is it? 

Deciding to not follow the crowd at concerts, to seek my own attitude and spirit of worship, changed things for me. It made me search. It made me question myself, be honest with myself: Am I not a good Christian because I don't always feel like raising my hands? Because I don't always feel like dancing? 

Nope. That wasn't the case. And it took a small group of people on my college campus and a few timely Bible studies/verses for me to realize it. 

I'm a college freshman, and I've gotten involved with the BCM (Baptist Campus Ministry) at my university. Because of my orchestra schedule, I'm not able to go to their evenings of worship and study, but there was one night that orchestra was cancelled and I was able to attend. It was a smaller group than usual, and I'd gotten to know several of the people there well. It was also election day. Needless to say, we all needed to de-stress. 

The evening didn't follow the usual format. There was no speaker, so the worship team led us in several songs, and we broke off for prayer in the middle. I found a dark corner and prayed, and prayed, my soul a little stale from weeks of classes and poor time management and haphazard prayer and Bible study. Then we were called back to the stage, and there were only maybe thirty of us and the musicians. We gathered close at the front, and as we started singing again, something clicked. Something about it felt so right for me, and I was able to close my eyes and sing at the top of my lungs. I didn't worry about raising my hands, I just did what felt natural. I sang to Jesus among my brothers and sisters, and listened to their voices too, and there was something so real and connecting and passionate about it that I felt a sensation I hadn't felt for a long time - rapture. 

For me, it bubbles up from my chest in a laugh that makes my throat ache when I try to suppress it. It has to come out in at least a huge smile. It's unstoppable, and it fills whatever cavities of emptiness the world has clawed open inside me. I felt it then, and I knew I was worshiping for real - with sincere people, with the right crowd, with beautiful, honest music. 

I try to be cautious when it comes to personal interpretations. As humans, we often want to twist Biblical truths to accommodate our own agenda. But I believe that worship was made to be personal. God speaks to us all in different ways. He may speak to someone at a loud Hillsong concert in the middle of a crowd of singers and dancers, just as easily as He may speak to someone as they sit at home in the quiet, over a cup of coffee and a devotional book. No matter the situation, we need to be listening for what God is speaking to our hearts. Sometimes He may whisper, I know your heart. Worship me with it quietly. You don't have to do what everyone else is doing. And other times He's whispering, Now's the time to worship Me like the ocean; crash against the shorelines of fear and shame that try to hem you in and keep you from praising Me. Don't be afraid to hold back." 

Worship can be found in so many places. In a smile when you realize a Bible verse was meant for you. In a song you sing with your church. In offering help to a stranger. In stopping to smell a rose bud and remember the One who gave it fragrance. 

Or it can be as free and wild and raw and untamed as the sea and all its fullness. 

Ultimately, it's about God's voice, and how you respond. It's not about structure, or about the people who are watching. No, it's about Jesus, the beautiful center of worship and of everything else. 

/ / /

What does worship mean to you? 


Friday, November 25, 2016

Why Nature is So, So Important

As I write this, I'm listening to a 50-second recording I took of the sounds in the woods where I grew up. I made the recording yesterday, on Thanksgiving, as I sat silently beside the shallow creek, nestled on a rock under the ledge of a small, dry waterfall. The sky was November grey, and the air was hazy with moisture and sweet from the cold. 

There was a rustling in the bed of leaves among the rocks where I was sitting, and a mouse scurried up into a hole under the ledge, out of sight. Above me, birds traversed the interwoven layer of branches that crossed the canvas of sky like frozen black lightning. 

The waterfall was dry, as I said, but there was still enough moisture to drip periodically and patter down on the leaves. The birdsong was musical, soft, cold. 

Not everyone grew up in the country like I did, and not everyone enjoys it like I do. But in my opinion, nature is absolutely vital to our well-being. It was created for our enjoyment. It's our earth, to nurture and use and explore and bask in. And sometimes just stepping outside and sitting a while can change your entire day. 

Some of the best moments in life for me have been in nature - gazing up at a star-strewn sky on a cold night, letting the wind from a waterfall in Yosemite plow into me as I stand at the base of it, finding a rock to sit on in the woods where I can listen to the sounds around me and let my mind empty. 

It can cleanse you, emptying yourself to an audience of birds and trees and wind. It can reshape your soul in preparation of another week. It can remind you of what's really important in life, of what's really worth your time, of what we've been given to enjoy. 

So the next time you get a chance, take a hike. Swim in the creek. Walk around in the fog. Climb a tree. Spread out a blanket on the ground and get lost in the sky. Close your eyes, feel the breeze, empty your mind and focus on this simple truth: that life is beautiful, and we can be thankful for that. 

/ / / 

Where's a place that you like to get away in nature? Is there somewhere in nature that you've never been, and want to go visit? I'd love to hear about it! 


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Almost 19

Fine corral dust swirled through the air, stirred up by the horses’ hooves. Beneath me, my horse swayed at a gentle walk, accustomed to young riders. My friend, atop her own horse, circled past on the other side of the corral, our instructor turning slowly in the middle as she watched us both with a keen eye.

“How old are you girls?” she asked us.

Our birthdays fall within two months of each other, so we both answered, “Almost eight.”

Not seven.

Almost eight.

The instructor shook her head in her usual, terse way. Then she told us something that has stuck with me for over a decade now.

“No, you’re not almost eight. You’re seven,” she said. “And you’ll never be seven again.”

Fast forward twelve years, and I’m almost nineteen.

But for the moment, as I post this, I’m still eighteen.

Tomorrow I turn nineteen, which is one year away from leaving the teens fully behind, forever. Tomorrow I turn nineteen, that bridge between the awkwardness of sudden legal adulthood at eighteen and the rocky stage of the twenties, when you’re supposed to have figured the adulting thing out (right). Tomorrow I turn nineteen, and I’ll wave goodbye to eighteen for good.

Nineteen feels a bit surreal, I’ll have to get used to it; it also seems full of possibilities, though.

But leaving eighteen behind forever?

The truth is, we can’t stop time’s advance. Many of us (and I speak for myself) want to rush through so many parts of our lives – the rough teen years, the hardships, the struggles – because we think the next year will hold something better. It’s the human condition that we rush, rush, rush through everything, good and bad, until something jerks our feet out from under us and we have to stop and sit.

And be still.

Even if it’s just for a minute.

Tonight, I want to take a moment to be still and enjoy the last few hours of eighteen, a temporary but precious gift I’ve been given for three-hundred-sixty-five days. Eighteen tested me and grew me, shaped me a little more into the person I was created to become.

So for now, I’m just eighteen.

It may change tomorrow, but that’s okay; I’ll take the next gift – nineteen – and cherish it too.

Here's to looking ahead, but sitting and resting in the now. 

Have you ever found yourself wanting to rush into the next step in life? Or have you discovered that sometimes it's better to enjoy each stage while you're living it?


Wednesday, October 26, 2016


I've mentioned this before, but I have a thing for music. And writing. And both paired together. Humanity has been intertwining the two for years in visual arts and songs with lyrics, in which a story is told and without the music, it wouldn't tug on our heart strings like it does when those particular melodies and cadences do come into play.

One thing I find myself doing often is searching for pieces of scores from movies. I love soundtrack music, even the music used in movie trailers (I'll get to that at the end of this post). I write to it, I listen to it for fun, I immerse myself in it to arouse a certain mood before I write, and sometimes I just soak it in and enjoy the perfection.

So I want to share some of my favorites with you today. Bits and pieces of movie scores that have moved me over the years. Maybe they'll help you write, or maybe you can just enjoy them for what they are.

1) I've loved this movie since childhood, and rediscovering the score recently made it all the better.

"The Burned Out Village"

2) THIS movie in and of itself is one of my all-time favorites, and the soundtrack is so hauntingly beautiful that sometimes I almost can't take it. (For any violinists out there, the solo violinist you'll hear is the ever-superb Hilary Hahn).

"I'm Back, Lucius"

"What Are You Asking Me"

3) I haven't actually watched The Last Samurai, but I stumbled upon this recently and kinda fell in love with it.

4) Needing inspiration for a creepy steampunk novel? Here you go. (Also, another one of my favorite movies.)

"Tick Tock"

That ending though.

5) I have yet to see The New World all the way through, but I love this piece from it. Absolutely, heartrendingly beautiful.

"All is Lost"

6) This isn't really a soundtrack, although it was created by a group that wrote cinematic-style music (and I think this piece was used for something TV-related that I haven't seen). I heard it a long time ago and recently unearthed it while I was making some plans for a fantasy novel. 


And now...back to that thing about movie trailer music. 

I love movie trailers, so much that I'll probably devote a post to the subject at some point. But for now, I just want to show you the music from three movie trailers that top my list of favorites (as far as the music goes). You'll probably get an idea for what a dramatic imagination I have, but, meh. Us writers are a dramatic lot to begin with. 

1. The music from the Catching Fire trailer:


2. From In the Heart of the Sea

3. And lastly, Everest

Out of all of these, when I listen to the In The Heart of the Sea trailer music, it gets to me, and I have this gut feeling that I must write the story project that I associate with it. So I guess that's the bottom line of all of this is - if you supplement your writing with music like me, pick music that tells you that you have to write your story.

/ / /

Do you have a favorite type of music to set the mood for writing? If not, is there something else that feeds your writing?


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Concerning Autumn

Autumn, to me, feels like an exhale.

It’s the earth taking a moment to breathe after the heart-pounding rapture of a full summer, after the gold and green days of glorious, blazing sun. It’s the world sighing its way into the fresh snap of cool mornings and the artist’s pallet of swirled ocher, burnt sienna, and crimson, the season’s color wheel, all while the first frost begins to settle its crystal fingers on the front door stoop, winter trailing close behind.

Autumn brings new texture to our lives. It sharpens the world in bright hues, in beds of leaves that crunch and crackle, in round acorns that press into the moist soil beneath our boots; it livens the air with the scents of spice and of newness and of sweetness, or the nutty aroma of roasted pumpkins seeds. It begins with a gentle awakening in the night, when grey clouds brush their way across the sky and we wake to them softly blanketing the earth, prompted forward by a cool breeze the sends the leaves shuddering down from the treetops.

It is a sigh, a moment of rest, of both rebirth and a silent slipping away of the viability of summer. It’s a time to store, to gather, to speak face-to-face, to wrap hands around warm mugs and listen to the cadence of a loved one’s voice while they tell you of their hopes for a white Christmas. It’s a time to be childlike, to throw on sweaters and run laughing through fields of goldenrod and Joe-Pye weed, to purposely shuffle your feet just to hear the rush of the fallen leaves coating the ground in color.

Autumn is fire and cold and warm bread and cocoa.

It is shivering hugs, a dash of cinnamon, and turning the heater on for the first time.

It is drizzly rains and holiday shopping and coffee mugs sending wisps of steam curling into a clear shaft of morning sun.

/ / /

Do you have a favorite season? If so, which one?


Friday, September 30, 2016

The Significance of Breakthroughs

Disclaimer: I have a passionate love for GIFs, so I’m going to use a few from Monsters Inc. to help me along in this post. You don’t mind, do you? *wink*

/ / /

Do you have a story that you feel like you’ve been working on for the last three decades? Does this particular story tend to get stuck, or act like a rebellious child, until all you want to do is hunt around the internet for pictures of celebrities who look like your characters while you cry into a bowl of ice cream and wait to hear the fleeting wing-beats of inspiration's approach?

Me too.

However, sometimes, we get these things that I call breakthroughs. They can be really big, or really small scale. (And I mean really small scale. However small, it still counts). For example, I was thinking two nights ago about a story I’ve been working on for around five years now.

Five years.

You can imagine how frustrated I get sometimes when it just. won’t. do. anything.

But I found myself in kind of a dark mood, at this moment two nights ago. I’d woken up to a breezy morning that wafted grey clouds overhead and sent a chill gusting inside before I slowly closed the door with a huge grin on my face. (I’m a November baby, so I can’t help but love fall weather). The day stayed overcast and a bit dreary, and I found myself curled up on the couch at the end of it, probably around eleven o’clock that night, with my laptop open, trying to conjure up something to write about. Something substantial. You can only write so many fluffy scenes in a story that’s not moving before you start itching to get to the meaty stuff.

So there I was, a little frustrated and depressed, my face pale in the glow of my laptop screen. I stared at my Word document, fingers poised to type, earbuds silent in my ears. Nothing happened, so I decided to turn on some music.

Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, music and writing are totally connected, practically inseparable. It was a song that inspired my first book at age twelve. Ever since then, I’ve had at least one song, if not a whole playlist, to go with every story I’ve dreamed up. Some of these songs contain lyrics, and some are movie soundtrack music. Some are even movie trailer music (which I will probably write a post about at a later time because I love movie trailers and their music, for reasons).

In this instance, I went to YouTube and pulled up the extended music from one of the trailers of The Hunger Games (which you can listen to here). It’s eerie, with a music box-like melody that builds into a quiet, bittersweet piano-y moment in the middle, then it’s back to the heart-pounding stuff until the end.

So I did the writer thing. I turned the music on and closed my eyes and tried to get into some kind of zone. The zone is never a guarantee – I’ve done this countless times, with countless songs, and it usually doesn’t produce much in the way of breakthroughs.

But sometimes it does.

Breakthroughs, I’ve realized, often come from a compilation of the right amount of desperation, moodiness, music, and sugary, coffee-infused beverages. (At least, that’s how it works for me). Because I experienced a sudden jolt of realization as I was sitting there, imagining little bits and scenes from my story with the music. This realization happened to be something pretty significant to the plot, which is huge for me, because plot is what I struggle with most. I realized a way to get my two main characters where they needed to be, via another character that I hadn’t thought much about before.

So, upon realizing that I’d had a tiny little breakthrough in this stubborn plot, I felt like this:

The next night, I was thinking about this new plot development and what all I could do with it, what doors it might open. As I was pondering, a second realization occurred to me, this one about my protagonist. I read once that every character in your story needs to have some kind of secret (much like they have to want something). I’ve never been into keeping secrets myself, so it hasn’t been a priority for my characters. But.

The realization of the night before led to the second realization that I could now give my protagonist a secret that would affect him, and his relationships with the people around him. It would deepen the story, just a tad. 

And this was basically my reaction, which you're free to interpret however you'd like:

That’s what a breakthrough is. Breakthroughs are those moments where something occurs to you about your story and you realize there’s hope for it. You know, even if it takes you a fourth decade, that you can finish this thing.

Live for the breakthroughs. Write for the breakthroughs. Embrace and apply them when they come.

You’ve got this.

/ / /

Are you stuck waiting for a breakthrough in a writing project right now? Have you found any ways to inspire breakthroughs in your writing? I’d love to hear from you!


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Being Intentional

I’ve been checking out a church plant on my college campus recently, and today’s sermon was about discipleship. Discipleship is a big, church-y word that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, perhaps in the way that talking to a psychologist does: nobody really wants to meet one-on-one with somebody solely to spill all their problems.

However, that’s not what discipleship is.

Discipleship is about gaining wisdom from someone who has accumulated more dark moments, more experiences with grace, and more stories of overcoming than you have. And not only that, but discipleship is a two-way street: while you’re reaching up for wisdom, you should also be offering the other hand down to those following in your footsteps, looking up to you.

That being said, I want to talk about being intentional.

With the rise of social media and busy lifestyles has come the fall of face-to-face interaction. Dinner tables have been replaced with on-the-go meals or shifted closer to electrical outlets so people can surf the internet while they eat. Phone calls to old friends have been replaced by Facebook profile stalking. Instead of finishing a book before bed, kids and teens scroll through their Instagram feed, unknowingly waking up their brain instead of shutting it down for the night.

I only say these things because I am completely, utterly, and entirely guilty of them myself. 

I’ve done some things differently though, lately. Small things, but they're bigger steps for me, being an introvert. I took a friend up on the suggestion of meeting him for coffee to finish a conversation, rather than us typing through Facebook about it. I’ve been meeting out-of-town and new college friends for lunch. And instead of sending my friend a text for her birthday, I dropped by her house, not even sure if she’d be there. (Thank goodness, she was, and it was so good to see her).

This has really been on my mind lately, and the lesson about discipleship this morning drove the point home. We need to be intentional about our relationships with others. The issue of being unable to find the time to spend with friends and family must be tossed aside. If we wait for the perfect time for anything in our lives, we’ll miss every opportunity. There is no perfect time. There is only the present, and we’re called to make the most of it with the people we love and care about, the people we can invest in, and the people who invest in us.

We were designed for relationships, and in a time where so many friendships are based on a certain amount of likes or shares, there’s no better time to start being intentional about them. Intentional, meaning, meeting a friend for more than just a chat. Taking a swig of coffee for strength before delving into life’s issues, small talk cast aside, with someone you trust. Being able to watch them react, mirror their smirk, notice how they tilt their head when what they’re telling you about themselves makes them uncomfortable. Or even just being able to laugh with someone. After all, laughter is the best medicine.

It’s time to start making time for what’s important. We need to disciple, and be discipled, even if that means nothing more than helping an older friend do laundry while they talk to you about their journey through life, so you can soak up the wisdom. It doesn’t have to be a heart-to-heart; it just needs to be intentional, patient, and honest.

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How are you going about strengthening the relationships in your life? Are there any relationships in particular that you could pursue more intentionally? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


Saturday, September 24, 2016


Life is about trying.

Every day, I get up and I try to act like I woke up on the right side of the bed. I try to keep my heavy eyes open. I try to shower without falling back to sleep standing up. I try to say my morning prayers before I let myself get on Instagram.

Every day, I try to be half the person that I know I’m meant to be. I try to be kind, I try to be loving, gracious, compassionate, courageous. I try to be fierce, to live up to the standards that I set for myself.

I try, every day, not to repeat the mistakes of yesterday.

I try to spend time intentionally with real people, face-to-face, not through a pixelated screen.

I try to be myself, laugh hard, forget that my hair is messy, and savor the smiles from friends and even strangers.

I try to follow up with people, to keep promises, to answer texts and emails. I try to look up when all I want to do is watch my shoes scuff against the hot September asphalt. I try, again and again, to put others before myself, to be the first to offer smiles and handshakes and hugs and hold doors open.

I try not to worry.

I try to keep in touch.

I try to write every day.

I try to pray like I should.

But here’s the catch: I fail, and I fail a lot. Like the Israelites of the Old Testament, I fall, get back up (often with necessary help), dust myself off, fall again. Like a stuck record, a song on repeat. Some (read: many) nights, my inability to better my own habits beats me down and I crouch beside my bed, sigh a lackluster prayer asking for help and forgiveness, and fade off wishing I could have an extra ten hours in my night just to sleep.

Then I wake up without that extra ten hours, and the cycle continues for another day.

There’s something to it, though. The trying.

It says that, even though you inevitably fall, you’re willing to put forth an effort and do your best. You’re willing to ask for forgiveness, dust yourself off, and start over. You be the best you can be, knowing that you’re incapable of being perfect, and you press on anyway.

You don’t give up.

That is fierceness.

I think fierceness manifests itself in people who believe they’re incapable of something and try anyway, no matter the risk or result. Fierceness stems from desperation, from a desire to put forth all you have in order to succeed.

In life, we’re called to be fierce, even if that means that all we can do is try, day by day.

Smile at yourself in the mirror when you wake up. Maybe even grin, or laugh, because today is a day to try and fail and rest assured in knowing that you can always try again.

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Is this something you struggle with, living life as if on repeat? If so, have you found any ways to stay encouraged and motivated? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.