Tuesday, December 5, 2017

When I Used to Draw

Image result for art pencils

 I haven't been writing as much of my novel as I've wanted to this past year. Life hasn't slowed down since I graduated from college. 

Full time job.
Church events.
A library full of books.
Big life decisions I need to make.
Tiredness from all of the above.

 You get it. I haven't been writing much. 

 These past few months though, I've been trying to write again. Really write, as in crank out this novel that I've been sitting on in my nest for almost six years. 

 But I feel dry and weary of life and what is in my life. Like my job that often feels meaningless and yet drains me every day. Of the same old routine. Of my student loans that weigh me down. Of dreams and opportunities that always seem to fail. Dreary from the sun that no longer seems to exist.

 How can I write feeling like that?

 I can't. Not really. Unless you want to read a novel that is dull, lifeless, and depressing.

 But I think I found a breakthrough. A breakthrough that started many years ago.

When I Used to Draw  
My writing breakthrough starts with my sister being better at drawing. I loved drawing when I was young. We both did. Books and writing were always more important to me than drawing, but I still loved the feel of the pen in my hands and choosing the colors that filled in the black lines. Until my sister was better.

 Though younger, her drawings were better. Not that I had really practiced. But her artwork shocked our parents. Their mouths in o's, the words "gift" on their lips. They would watch her move her pencil in awe and admired her work like they never admired mine. Not even my stories evoked those emotions from them.

 So I stopped drawing my shameful pictures. And I focused on writing, which had been my first love anyway.

 I don't regret focusing on writing. It is what I love most in the realm of art and always will be. I just wish I hadn't given up drawing.

 Graphic Novels
Then in college I took a graphic novels literature class. I wasn't thrilled about this class, just intrigued, curious, and needing those three easy credits.  With rare exceptions like Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes, I felt that comic books were for children and lazy adults who never tried to read a real book and had to rely on pictures of superhero drama for their so called literature. (Savage, I know). 

 I never imagined what I would discover in that class. I discovered that in some ways I was right, (which I hope to talk about in a future blog post) but I was also terribly wrong. I discovered that I loved graphic novels. 

 And I was horrified when my professor announced we would be making our own journal comics. My head again filled with the images of my sister's drawings compared to mine. But my professor insisted he didn't care if we drew stick figures, and my grades were at stake. So I drew stick figures. 

 After the initial shame and shock at my horrible drawings, I began to relax and found that I loved it. I loved writing and drawing about what I was feeling. Though I was frustrated that my pen could not even try to capture the images in my head, I still loved making comics. It was fun. It was a release. It unleashed new things in me. I promised myself that someday I would write a graphic novel, words and pictures by me.

The Breakthrough
 It's now been two years since I took that class. I still read graphic novels. I still plan on making one myself someday. But I'm trying to write again and be creative again. I remember the words flowing out of me and I want that again for my novel in progress.

 And this image appeared  in my head. An image of my main character and a vine attached to her foot. I won't reveal my secret of how that correlates with my novel, but trust me when I say it does. This image made so much sense to me. It made me rejoice. Until I had this thought: How do I turn that image into words? 

 That question turned into more questions and more thoughts, thoughts that made me realize how visual I am. How my stories often don't initially come in words, but pictures that I then translate into words. 

 What if sometimes my thoughts must first be pictures on paper before it can be translated into words?

 I tested my theory during the long car ride back home after spending Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania. I had empty, lined paper and my colored pens that only God knew I would need, and I put on that paper whatever came to me. There were words followed by pictures, and pictures followed by words. The emotion, the feeling, the desire of my character in my head became an image on my paper, and then that image turned into words that sounded like poetry. 

 My breakthrough.

 My pictures are terrible. I drew stick people. I drew the lamest bed you have ever seen. I drew the ocean, and no one but me would know it was even water. But the words that followed those silly pictures, I think, make up for it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The College Years // Counting His Faithfulness

Sometimes, when life hurts, when it doesn't feel like God 
is faithful, when the words, "God is good" have become a 
chant I repeat to myself with no heart change, I think it is 
good to go back to all the times in my life when God has 
proven Himself faithful to me.

 The College Years

  God's mercies to me during this time were abundant. I know I won't have time to highlight every way God was kind and faithful to me. But maybe that's the point.

 1. He let me go to college.

  Even in my junior year of high school I knew what school I wanted to attend and what my major I would pick. But this small, private school in Michigan was expensive. Like most students, I waited to see if I would be accepted. I waited even longer to find out if we could afford it. It wasn't until a little before I graduated from high school that I knew I was going to college.

 The bottom line was that we couldn't afford college. But between both of my parents working, their sacrifices, my summer job, some financial aid, and loans, they thought it would work. I prayed for a miracle. I prayed for my school to see how much help I needed and what a good student I was and promise to give me more money. I prayed for my essay to win one of the big scholarships I entered. I prayed for God to hurl money down from the sky. None of those things happened. 

 Each year, and sometimes each semester, I didn't know if there would be enough money to go back to school. But somehow, small miracle after small miracle, there was just enough for me to go to school. Though God didn't give me my big miracle, He was faithful and provided a way for me to go to college and graduate.

2. He showed me that Christ was all I needed. 

 1,000 miles is a large distance. And I didn't realize just how large until I found myself on campus with strange people, two new roommates, a dorm full of girls, and my family quickly driving farther and farther away from me. 

  I wanted so much to belong, for my roommates to like me as much as I liked them, to do well in school, and to be an adult for the first time and not fail. But I was also scared and regretted choosing this school far from home. I didn't feel like I could do it.

 It felt like I had been stripped of everything I loved. But with that feeling came the realization that I had Jesus. In ways I had never experienced before, Jesus was my comfort, my hope, and my security. When I felt like I had nothing, God showed me I had everything in His Son. 

3. He provided me with amazing roommates and friends.

 One of my biggest prayers before and during college were that God would give me good roommates. My mom has horror stories about her freshman roommate, and I didn't want to experience what she did. Even before I met my freshman roommates, I wanted to best friends with them. And when I met them, I loved them instantly, just because they were the girls God had placed in my room. God was kind and let us all be good friends. We had our struggles, our misunderstandings, and hard times, but we got through them. I couldn't have asked for better roommates. I have funny stories; no horror stories. I may cringe when I hear a song my roommate used as an alarm she never heard, but that is all. 

 Even through all four years of college, I was blessed with the girls I lived with and the friends I made.

4. My singleness.

  This is a hard subject, one that I am reluctant to thank God for and something that is still a real struggle in my life. But I am thankful for how God used my singleness in college.

 I am one of those girls that has wanted to be married and raise children as soon as my brain was able to grasp those concepts. Except for my writing dreams, marriage and children were all I ever wanted. And I all I want now. During high school none of my friends were dating and I recognized how young I was, so I was content to wait and daydream about my future family and what I would name my kids.

 But the day I started college something changed in me. I now considered myself "officially" old enough to date and I lived on a campus full of eligible Christian young men who probably wanted to get married, too. So I figured it was only a matter of time before I met a wonderful, godly guy who liked me as much as liked him, we would start dating, and then get married in June after I graduated, just like my mom. 

 However, God had other plans. Each year of college ended with no boyfriend. Freshman. Sophomore. Junior. Senior. 19. 20. 21. 22. No boyfriend. No dates. To make things worse, the entire campus had marriage fever. Everyone around me was going on dates, new relationships popped up all around my dorm, and young freshman couples were getting married. Even my friends all seemed to have boyfriends. My roommate got engaged. It was happening to everyone but me. I graduated and sadly watched the month of June pass, though I never would have admitted to anyone what was so sad about the June I was 22.

 Enter God teaching me a lot of things during those four years of college throughout my singleness, like trusting in Him alone, surrender, joy, contentment, and how I can plan all I want, but it is God's plans that prevail. My singleness shows me my weakness, my desperate need for Jesus, and the idol I have made into marriage.

 I never wanted singleness. In fact, I ask God all the time to take it away. But until then, and even if it never happens, I can only praise my Savior for His faithfulness to me and discover how I can use my singleness. 

5. I found an amazing church.

 I would not have survived college without the church I attended in Michigan. That is no exaggeration. It was the only place I felt a little bit at home those first few weeks of school. It was a gospel centered place of worship that allowed me to escape from campus a few hours each week. It was full of people my age and older that cared about me. 

 I especially plugged more into my church my junior year. Though each year of college had it's own struggles, that year was the hardest. When I remember that year, I see a dark fog settled over and around all the things that happened, and my church was the only light. Again, I am not exaggerating. I knew the truth of the gospel that would bring me out of my circumstances, but I needed my church to remind me of those truths. Starting that year, due to many friends leaving and graduating, I had few close friends on campus. All of my friends were at my church.  

 I have much to praise God for in my past. Therefore, my present and my future are and will be no exception. Praise be! 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My Beginning // Counting His Faithfulness Part 1

Sometimes, when life hurts, when it doesn't feel like God is faithful, when the words, "God is good" have become a chant I repeat to myself with no heart change, I think it is good to go back to all of the times in my life that God has proven Himself faithful to me. 

My beginning

 I remember being four years old and listening to a CD of children's Bible songs while my mom was on the phone. The words I heard were simple and sweet, singing, "...come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in, today. Come in to stay..." I sang along and realized that is what I wanted for my life. I wanted Jesus to come into my heart. I wanted Him in my life. So I knelt by our sofa and asked Jesus to come into my heart, and my mom cried when I told her what I had done.

 Many believers will share testimonies of how they said a prayer when they were young but did not truly become a Christian until later in their life when they truly understood the gospel. But that is not my story. I knew I was a sinner who deserved the wrath of a holy God. I knew that Jesus died on the cross for my sin. And I knew I needed and wanted Jesus. I praise God that He saved me- not through any merit of my own, but through His mercy and the blood of Jesus.

 When I was in eighth grade, a friend challenged me to get baptized as I had been a professing believer for quite a while. But I was terrified. At my church, baptism also includes publicly sharing my testimony in front of the whole church-  one of my greatest fears. I told my friend no, that I could never do it. But over the next few months my pastor seemed to mention baptism in every sermon. It came up in the most random conversations. I couldn't escape the subject. Then in school I learned about Chinese believers being persecuted for their faith. Many of them were being baptized despite the threat of death that was sure to come with the simple act of being immersed in water. This wasn't something that had happened a long time ago, but a tragedy that was happening right now as I discarded the thought of baptism because of my fear of public speaking. If my brothers and sisters in Christ were risking their lives to be baptized, how could I not be baptized where I would not be killed, tortured, or imprisoned afterword? So in May of 2008, I was baptized and shared my testimony as my body ached from fear, my voice shakily whispered through the microphone, and my eyes glued to the words on my paper. My God was faithful and I did it, but only through the work of the Holy Spirit inside of me.

 This is my beginning, the first few times I can distinctly remember God's faithfulness to me. And it is only my beginning.