Saturday, December 31, 2016

Dear 2016 // Living Plan "C" and God's Agenda

Dear 2016,

 You have been a strange year.

  I started you feeling nervous about upcoming changes, but hopeful. I completed my last semester of college, gave a thirty minute presentation on the awkward topic of emotional porn, and graduated.

 I moved back home, started a retail job that gave me what must have been mild panic attacks, and drove to Michigan via Canada with my dad to take my sister back to school.

 Thankfully God provided an escape from retail, and I started my first full time job working at a chocolate factory. The week before Christmas I also discovered what it was like to work overtime and clocked in 48 hours (the verdict is hopefully never again).

 2016, you haven't been bad, just hard. It was hard to finish college strong. The night before my presentation was spent trying to convince myself that I would not die standing in front of thirty people talking about sex and pornography and not having a heart attack during the presentation. My graduation was simply a blur of goodbyes to beloved friends, professors, and places. During my retail job I experienced the feeling of utter hopelessness. I had to say goodbye to my sister for three months. It was and still has been a struggle to adjust to working full time at a job I am not naturally gifted in nor ever wanted (temporarily or permanently). And though I love my parents it has also been an adjustment to live at home again after being so independent during four years of college.

 This is not a pitty party, 2016, just facts. Ever since graduation I have felt like I have been living Plan C. 

 Plan A: Graduate with a B.A. in Creative Writing (check), marry an amazing young man summer or fall 2016 (un-check), get a cool writing job with a Christian non-profit or publishing company (nope), get short stories and articles published in magazines and literary journals as well as have my blogs explode with traffic (those things haven't happened either), finish my first novel and in the years to come have it published followed by contracts for more novels until I die (You get the pattern. Didn't happen), eventually have some kids (clearly won't happen).

 Plan B: Graduate with a B.A. in Creative Writing (check), be fully content with my singleness and embrace that freedom and gift and devote my life to helping other single women (ha), live in Michigan and get an apartment with a good friend(s) (nope), get a cool writing job with a Christian non-profit or publishing company (no), get short stories and articles published in magazines and literary journals as well as have my blogs explode with traffic (yeah, no), finish my first novel and in the years to come have it published followed by contracts for more novels until I die (no), somehow be an influential single person in the Christian writing world without having to do public speaking engagements (hey, I can dream).

 Plan C: Graduate with a B.A. in Creative Writing (already happened so good start to plan), live at home because I have no other option (check), work at a chocolate factory because I cannot be idle and have upcoming loan payments (check), every once in a while force myself to write even though I am worn out from working because I WILL finish my novel even if it takes me ten years (check), search for writing jobs in Michigan because even though every day I am here it gets harder to leave, I still want independence (check). 

 The only thing that has gone according to my plan is graduating from college and convincing my sister to also go to the same college, which quickly backfired as we are in different states again.

 You did bring some wonderful things, 2016, that I can't forget. I made new friends, after four years of hard work I graduated from college, I survived my crazy presentation (though I'm still not sure how), I was able to be in a dear friend's wedding, I had many hiking adventures with my dad, a saw a favorite band in concert, I finally finished reading through the entire Bible, I got to touch the top of Whiteface Mountain, and God taught me many lessons about joy and contentment. 

 However at night I think about my Plan C that I am currently living and can't help feel depressed, ashamed, and often angry at God despite the good times. I didn't want Plan C. I didn't even want Plan B.  

 But God wants Plan C. I don't know why, but the fact that I am currently living it means he wants it for me. He may even change Plan C. I have a hunch that despite how much I hate it, I may be living Plan Z at the end of my life. 

 But my Plan C or Plan Z are his Plan A. 

 In 2017, I want my agenda to die. Though my flesh fights me, I want my plans to be God's plans. 

 The last book I read in your year, 2016, was "Finding Your Way Through Loneliness" by Elisabeth Elliot, and I fell in love with the following section.

 "A bright young woman and I were eating lamb sandwiches. I asked her if she is lonely. 
'Lonely? Why should I be?'
'You're single. Most of the single people I know talk about being lonely.'
With a look of surprise and then a laugh she said, 'Oh no. You see, I have a sense of expectancy every day. What does the Lord want to do with me today? I have no agenda of my own.'
No agenda of my own. There is the key to Linda's freedom. I continued to question her. Yes, she said, she knows what loneliness feels like- it's isolation, when you think you can't reach anyone, nobody reaches you, you're cut off. You have your own agenda.
'What do you mean by an agenda?' I asked.
'Thinking there's only one solution and God has to give you that or nothing. You have a closed mind. A closed mind is a closed heart and a closed door.'
Now I recognized the reason for the smile which seems always to light Linda's face. I think it must come from her wholehearted acceptance of God's 'agenda'" (162).

 My agenda was Plan A. It was what I demanded from God. It was my one solution to happiness. When almost all of it didn't happen in general or within my time frame, I made Plan B. But God didn't listen to that either. 

 So now I am living Plan C. But I am praying that my Plan C will  simply be God's agenda. I will always write. I will still try to become a published author. God may bless me in the future with a family and many things I desire. But He may not, and I need to be okay with that.

 Though I say this with fear, tears, bitterness, and some anger, (God, please forgive me), in 2017 I want a "wholehearted acceptance of God's agenda". 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What God Has Put Before Me


 She posted a photo of a pie today. It looks warm even in the photo- warm and worthy of a cooking magazine. And I wish I could have helped one of my dearest friends on a day I felt so lonely. I wish she could have taught me her pie baking secrets, and then we could have talked and sipped warm drinks while it baked.

 But I'm not there; I'm here, almost one thousand miles away.

 These feelings of wanting to be in a different place are not uncommon for me. Rewind to about six months ago. Instead of paying attention in class, I am writing. The class had sounded interesting when I signed up for it last semester, but now it's just another three credits I need to graduate. The professor drones about a book I haven't read and don't wanted to read, so like most of the other classes, I begin working on my novel to avoid the professor's monologue. 

 But instead, I find myself with an idea for a blog post. I write about how though I am tired of this class, tired of paying attention and bored out of my mind and ready to graduate already, I know someday I will miss it. 

 I know that someday I might be a mom with little children and I will long to be back in a classroom full of adults having educated conversations about literature. I might have a boring job where I won't use my brain and I will miss thinking and writing papers. 

 I just didn't know how soon I would miss that class and that life of college and studying.

  Now, six months later, I have a job where I don't use my brain. Well, at least not in the way I want to use it. I wrap chocolate all day. It's not a bad job. I love almost all of my co-workers and unlike my last job it does not give me mild panic attacks. But I am not writing. I am certainly not using my college degree. And I get bored and miss that "boring" class where I tuned out the professor and doodled on my paper as I brainstormed ideas for my novel.

 But as I'm wrapping chocolate one day, I realize that someday I may want to be back here sitting for eight hours a day wrapping chocolate. I may have kids and I may want to simply sit down in a quiet room and get paid to hear myself think. I may be writing a paper in grad school and tired of the mental stimulation and the deadlines, just like I was six months ago. I may have a writing job and be stuck writing a blog post I could care less about and remember that wrapping room where my hands would fly but my mind was free and I sang along to the radio all day. 

 I am not good at being present. I am always looking backward at what I miss and looking forward to what I hope will be. Right now I don't want to be still dependent on my parents, wrapping chocolate for forty hours a week and far away from my friend. But I need to present. It may not be what I envisioned for my post-college life, but it is what God has given me for right now. And if I am consistent, as soon as I start a new job or leave home, I will miss it. So I am trying to enjoy what God has put before me.

 I am still mourning a pie not baked with one of my dearest friends and the thousand miles that separate us. But I have few good friends here, too. So I ask one of them if she wants to come over this Saturday. She responds with a text that reads, "I would love too! What time, and do you want to bake apple pie?"

 I laugh, then find myself praising the only one who could arrange all this. God has provided another dear friend to bake a pie with. 
And I think for the first time in a while, when my friend and I make apple pies, that I enjoyed being in the present- not looking backward, not looking forward- just rejoicing in what God has before me.

 Though I am not where I want to be, I am where God wants me. It is good because He is good and His plan for me is good. I am thankful this week for his blessing in apple pie and that He never gives up on me. 

  What are you thankful for this week of Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Letter to My College Self

Dear College Student Me,

    I am writing to you from the other side of college- the graduation, full time job, real life now begins side. And here is what I wish you had known:

 1. College isn't easy, but neither is anything after college.

   We tend to think that whatever hard thing we are currently going through is the hardest thing we will ever face in my life. That is not true. College is hard. It is a hard transition, has unique problems, and awkward times, but so is every stage of life. There will always be another hard thing. 

 2. Do not be afraid to make friends. 

   I know because it is still true of me. You don't want to make too many friends because you partly fear and know that some will leave you and some you will leave at graduation. This is hard. This is still hard. You don't want to get too attached to your campus, new state, and new friends because you know you may be spread out after graduation. But you can't live like that. 

 3. School really matters and really doesn't matter at the same time.

     Those classes you are literally writing stories the whole class period because they are stupid- yeah they are stupid, but maybe you should be paying attention. You can never go back to those classes. You may never get to be a student again, there each day to learn and absorb new information and ideas.   And those classes you are obsessing over, that you have to get an A in, that are either classes in your major where you have to be perfect or those classes where someone said you couldn't do it and now you have to prove them wrong- it's probably not worth it, at least to the point you are stressing over them. 

 4. You will not get what you want. 

    You will not meet a wonderful guy who you will fall in love with and who will later ask you to marry him. So instead of obsessing over wanting and wishing for that guy you will not have, just enjoy the life God has given you. 

 5.  Your education is worth it, but the loans you will have in the future are no laughing matter. 

   I don't regret my college education, but I do have a substantial amount of loans I am just now starting to pay off- more than I ever imagined possible. This isn't to scare you, but more to help you see how important those four years are. (Side note for readers: If you are also currently trying to pay off student loans, Earnest can help by giving you options for refinancing. I have not personally used them, but they look like a good company and I did enjoy reading some blog posts on their website.)* 

 6. Trust in the God who has never left you.

     No year of college will be easy for you. When you remember your junior year you will just see a cloud of darkness. Each other year will have its unique trials, but you will get through them. And it won't be because you are strong or brave or resilient. It will be because God stayed with you and did not leave you. 

 *Earnest did approach me about writing this blog post and promoting their services, however everything I have written is my honest, un-altered personal beliefs and opinions. I have not used their company, but they seem like a good one to check out if you are struggling with loan payments.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

East of Eden: Book Review


  East of Eden by John Steinbeck is a re-telling of Cain and Able in Genesis. It begins with Adam and Charles, half brothers who are opposites in personality as well as in their feelings for their father. In a twisted father and son triangle, their father loves Adam and hates Charles, Charles loves his father and Adam hates him. Sadly, history is doomed to repeat itself, and not remembering his own childhood, Adam favors one of his twin sons over the other, despite the fact that the one he loves doesn't love him and the one he doesn't love can only think of how to get Adam to love him. 

 What I Liked
Image result for East of Eden
   Steinbeck is an amazing author. His words are so simple, but eloquent, detailed, and descriptive. What he doesn't say is just as important as what he does. The plot was intriguing.  The characters were amazingly real in my mind. The depth and meaning in the book never ended.

 A prostitute was also one of the main characters, and I thought it was handled well. Steinbeck did not try to hide or cover up the truth, but at the same time he did not flaunt it nor have inappropriate scenes as far as I can remember.

 Here are some of my favorite quotes:

 "Perhaps the best conversationalist in the world is the man who helps others to talk."

 "And the books that came into the house, some of them secretly- well, Samuel rode lightly on top of a book and he balanced happily among the ideas the way a man rides white rapids in a canoe. But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands."

 "'Adam', he said, 'I don't know whether you notice it, but it seems like every other word you say is California. Do you really want to go?'
 Adam chuckled. 'That's what I'm trying to figure out,' he said. 'I don't know. It's like getting up in the morning. I don't want to get up, but I don't want to stay in bed either.'"

 "Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man."

 What I Didn't Like

    The only thing I didn't like was the amount of language. There was more in the book than I anticipated, although it was not as bad as other books I started to read.


  I recommend this book for readers who don't mind a medium to high level of language, a very long book (about 600 pages), an intriguing but somewhat slow moving plot, a more character driven story, and a book that will leave you thinking after every page. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I Am Not Enough

Lately, I have been feeling inadequate. 

 I'm a college graduate who, so far, has not been able to find a job that suits my level of education or what I studied for the last four years. 

 I am a writer who has never had a story published and who will probably be still working on her first novel for the next five years.

 I am single young woman who has never been asked out on a date. Did I mention I was 22?

 At work I was told I need to be faster at my job, and despite every effort and skipping breaks, I have still been told I need to get faster because the busy season is coming soon.

  Lately, I've been feeling like I am not enough.

  I am not smart enough.
  Not creative enough.
  Not strong enough.
  Not pretty enough.
  Not fast enough.
  Not good enough.

  I am not enough. 

 People are quick to build me up when I feel this way, but while it is helpful in the moment, their encouragement never lasts because the truth remains; I am not enough. 

 Many Christians, even, fall into this belief that we need to lift our spirits by remembering God's love for us. 
 "God loves you," they say. That is true. 
 "He loves you so much he died for you." Also true.
 "Because you are worth it," they end. And not true.

 I was not worth it. I am a dirty, rotten sinner. If God had never looked at me, at all of humanity again after Adam and Eve sinned, He would have had every right. We have rebelled against the GOD, the KING, the CREATOR of the universe who gave us breath and a beautiful garden with animals and Himself and just told us to not eat from the one tree. I say "us" because we all would have done the same thing in Adam and Eve's place. One tree was forbidden, and we ate. One prideful feeling. One look of jealousy. One cry as a baby for milk that turned into anger when we did not receive food at the time we thought was proper. 

 So you're telling me that I was worth the death of God's Son, the most perfect and beautiful man who walked the earth? No, my worth is in the fact that Jesus chose to love me, not because I deserved it, but because it is what He chose to do. 

 Some of you are thinking about how when God created Adam and Eve He looked at them and said it was good. You are remembering how God has made us in His own image. You know that though we do sin we also were intricately designed and we have made beautiful paintings, sculptures, books, cities, and technology. But again, those are all things that God made us to be or has given us the ability to do. We need Him for every breath. Yes, our bodies, our minds, the things we can do, create, and say are amazing, and I think we should celebrate that, but it is God that allows those things to happen, and it just points us back to Him. Without Him we are nothing. Without Him we are not enough. 

 I am not enough. And recently, I've been feeling it.

 I will never be pretty enough.
 Never strong enough.
 Never fast enough.
 Never good enough, whether it is my writing, my relationships, or my job.

 But through Jesus who died for me, I am enough. Praise the Lord. Only through Him may I boast.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Restless: A Prose Poem

  1: lacking or denying rest : uneasy  <a~night> 2: continually moving : unquiet :  <the~sea> 3: characterized by or manifesting unrest esp. of mind <~pacing> ; also changeful, discontented  (Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 1062)

  Wanting to accomplish something, starting a project, then putting it down because it did not satisfy the urge to do something; then the feeling comes back, you start something new, but it's not worth it again, and the cycle then repeats itself.

  The strange sensation that something is not right and you have to fix what is broken, but you don't know what is broken or how to fix the hole.

  A tugging of you heart that longs to lead you to ab unknown place.

  Lying in bed constantly switching sides because you can't get comfortable and you're neither tired nor awake.

  Waiting for a change that is going to happen in your life and wanting but not being able to slow it down or speed up the process.

  A wandering of the mind.

  The feeling of boredom combined with a yearning for something more.

  The realization that God is trying to tell you something if you could only stop wandering to listen.

  The feeling of certain doom in your heart while your head applies logic to tell you there is no certain doom, leaving you only still with the feeling of doom but with no grounds and no reason to tell anyone your crazy feelings of an upcoming emotional desert. 

  The quiet whisper of God drawing you close and telling you to rest in Him.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Behind the Register

I am excited to have officially left my retail job, and while I have many negative memories of the job, I think what I will remember most is the faces of the strangers I saw while standing behind the cash register. 

 The man who took about five minutes to tell me that the reason why his wife developed IBS was because of going on a shake diet earlier in her life.

 The teenage girl who tried to walk out of the store with a bottle of red nail polish in her pocket.

The boy who paid for fifteen dollars worth of snacks entirely in rolls of quarters as his mother chided him for holding up the line. 

She rushes to the front of the store and puts her stuff on the counter, looking agitated. 
 "How are you, today?" I ask.
"Okay. I'm fighting the worst headache I've had in my life."

The high school girl who bought a doll so she could cut off its' arms for an epic senior photo.

"Can you cut the tag of these sunglasses for me? I left mine at home." 

 The man whose right arm was only a stump who smiling, told the child staring at him that his wife bit his arm off instead of telling him it was a war wound and they had to amputate his arm. 

 The cranky lady who was mean to me after misunderstanding my directions for using the keypad, but a week later came back and apologized. 

 The older gentleman who serenaded me with the song "Alison" by Elvis Costello. "Alison, I know this world is killing you/ Oh Alison, you know my aim is true."

 The young girl who tried to buy a sweet, alcoholic beverage, then shocked by the request for I.D. put it back guiltily. 

 The mother yelling at her kids to behave, then asking me if I would take them.

 The man who wondered why my bracelet said "joy", asked if it was my girlfriend's name, then laughed hysterically at my appalled face.

 The grandmother who looks at me with tired eyes, ignoring the cries for candy and gum from the children scampering around her feet, then asking if I wanted them because she was too old to do this again. 

 The guy who called me "dear". 

 The little girl who watched me bagging their food and said, "You must hate your job."
 "Why do you say that?" I asked.
 "It looks so boring."

 The old man who told me I was beautiful. 

 She stands in line, a teenage girl with short, blonde hair holding a pregnancy test. Her hand keeps finding her stomach and hovering there, like she is wondering, hoping, or regretting, a new life she may soon find exists. 

 I will remember her most.

Friday, August 12, 2016

What I've Been Listening To

Piano, Instrument, Music, Keys, Notes, Old, Vintage
 Music, for me, is a necessity for life. It's like food. A day cannot go by where I haven't listened to music or sang a song. Because of that, I am constantly looking for new music, so in hopes that this will give you some new songs to listen to, here is a list of eight songs I have been listening to recently. 

1. "The Secret Place" by Phil Wickham and Madison Cunningham

  I love Phil Whickham, so I'm not sure how I missed this song on  his new CD, but I discovered it just yesterday and instantly fell in love. There's also an acoustic version that I shared below.  

2. "He Will Hold Me Fast" by Keith and Kristyn Getty 

   This has become a song I turn to when I am struggling because of the sweet melody of the hymn "Be Still My Soul" combined with the promise that He will never leave me. 

3. "O Children Come" by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Ladysmith Black Mambazo

  Also on their most recent album, this song I found to be so much fun and full of character. 

4. "Alone" by Hollyn

  I first heard this on Christian radio, and it took a while to find out who sang it. I love her spunk, originality, and words. 

 5. "A Silent Cause" by The Paper Kites

  Earlier this summer I got to see The Paper Kites in concert with some of my friends. They are one of my favorite groups because of their unique folk style and poetic words. This song is one of my new favorites of theirs. 

6. "Thy Will" by Hillary Scott and The Scott Family

   This song was featured on one of Spotify's lists, and I first heard it a few days before graduation. The verses echo my feelings of graduating, this summer, and my future, and the chorus is simply "thy will be done" repeated again and again, and it is exactly what I need to hear. 

7. "The Driver" by Bastille

  I don't always like all of Bastille's songs, but this one felt like it was grabbing me. I love his voice, the music, and the fact I have never heard a song like it before. If you can't tell, I am big on originality.  

8. "Try Everything" by Shakira 

   I do not listen to Shakira, nor endorse her music, but I have to say that even though it is on the fluffy side I love this song that was featured on the movie Zootopia. I haven't been able to get it out of my head for the last few days. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Two Homes

 This is Vermont.

 I was born here. I have grown up here. 

 It is beautiful with the trees and the mountains and Lake Champlain.

This is Michigan.

 I went to college here.

 It is also beautiful in a different way.

I thought after four years of college that it would clear where I should be, that if I liked Michigan, there were opportunities, and it had become my home, then I would stay. If I wanted to go back to Vermont, then I would go back the mountains.

 But it's not that simple. I go back and forth. 

Logical me, safe and conservative me, says to stay in Vermont. I can live with my parents, hike mountains, and save my money for a car and paying back my school loans. I'll be with my family, I'll have a wonderful church family, and I'll be home. 

Adventurous, independent me says to go back to Michigan. I have lots of friends there; I could get a writing job with a Christian company and be on my own. I'd be with my sister while she's in school, I'll have an equally wonderful church family, and I'll be home. 

I'm really choosing between two homes.

I thought that the perfect job opportunity would come up for me in Vermont, or that an amazing guy would ask to marry me in Michigan, and there would be no choice, no decision, no weighing the pros and cons or feeling like no matter what I choose I am cutting myself in two.

 When I let myself really see what I want, it is Michigan that is in my heart. That doesn't change my love for Vermont, the mountains, my parents, my church, or my friends. I see Michigan as my future.

 But I need to remind myself of a few things:

1. Moving back to Michigan would be scary, but I need to do scary things. I would be officially on my own, needing to make money for a place to live and food to eat and clothes to wear and gas to put in my car and things could happen like my car breaking down or I could lose my job or the heat could stop working in my apartment and I would need more money, and I can't forget taxes and loan payments, and oops I put a hole in my jeans and a pair of jeans is about two hours of working at the least! 

 Scary- yes, but scary just like going to college far away. Plus, I'll have to move out of my parent's home someday. And something I constantly forget and shouldn't ever forget is that I am a child of God, where even death is an improvement, so why should I fear my tire going flat?

2. I have expectations. I either think the best or the worst is going to happen. I think that if I move to Michigan it will be perfect, or the most horrible experience of my life. I think that if I stay in Vermont my life will be miserable or it will be all sunshine and lollipops. None of those expectations are good. No matter where I am, whether it is bad or good, my Savior is still risen and my God is still good. 

3. I may never go back to Michigan. Five years from now I may be working at the same place and still chipping away at my novel. God may have other plans for me, and I need to trust Him and His perfect plan that is perfect simply because it is His.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

In Everything Give Thanks 7-30-16

1. I am so thankful that Thursday I gave my two weeks notice to the dollar store I've been working at. I have been dreaming of leaving for over a month, and praise God that He has let that happen.

2. I get to leave my current job because I now have a full time job! It is not the writing job I have dreamed of, or a more cushy office job that I would feel better about having, but I will be working with chocolate, and I hope and pray it is a better situation than my current job.

3. Also Thursday, I wrote about 1,687 words of my novel, which makes me so happy! I haven't had a good day of writing for so long.

4. I am thankful for long distance friends that are still dear to me and are such an encouragement, whether it is through emails the phone, or Facebook. Though I wish they lived close, I have the greatest friends. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I Need Thee Every Hour

 Some things are hard to write about.

 Like how I feel that changes are happening to me too fast, but at the same time too slow. I want everything to slow down and speed up at the same time.

 How I wish I knew where I will be this fall, to have security in a plan.

 How I feel like I am not sure how I arrived sitting in this rocking chair typing these words.

 How lately the times that I have felt happy have also felt like I am only avoiding a certain upcoming doom. I can be happy and smile only as long as I am distracted and not letting myself think about my job or my future.

 But what doom? What is there to fear?

 The atmosphere at my work is often not pleasant. Every day I do something wrong. Every day I learn something new that I should have been taught a month ago. The lady I usually work with demands that I do things in a time frame that is usually impossible. They talk about their employees behind their backs, and I wonder what they say about me when I am not there.

 But my life is not in danger and I am getting paid. So why this paralyzing fear when I wake up and realize that I am working today? Why do I find myself hyperventilating in the shower like I am about to give a speech? I just want the fog that circles me to go away. 

 I can't explain my irrational fear of my job, a fear that has lasted too long. I don't know how long it will last or how long I will have this job. I don't know why God has chosen for me to be in this situation with so many unanswered questions. 

 All I know is that I have never prayed so much in my entire life. It is the first thing I do in the morning, before I am even out of bed. It is what I am focused on in the shower instead of thinking of stories or random thoughts. I pray as I get ready for work. I pray during any spare seconds at work. I pray during my break. I pray in the car. I pray on my walks. Because though I have always needed Jesus, now I feel that need like I did when I first started college completely alone and one thousand miles away from home.

 Now, back at home four years later, I still need Him, and He has not stopped showing me that.

 He did not forsake me on the cross. He did not leave me four years ago as a freshman, or any of the hard times throughout college. So why would He leave me now?

 Oh me of little faith.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Grace for the Writer

 Being a writer isn't easy. At least not for me and this is why:

 1. I am the kind of writer who only wants to write when I am inspired- when I have an image burning in my mind that I am dying to put on paper, or when a piece of dialogue comes into my head. This is hard because most of the time I don't feel that inspiration and therefore feel like I am forcing myself to write, leading to feeling stupid that I am a writer who hardly writes.

 2. Most people consider my writing to be more of a hobby. They think it's cool and sound impressed and say that they could never be a writer. But then when I share that I majored in creative writing and hope to make it my career, suddenly, even if they don't say anything, I feel judged at times, like what I want to so is unimportant, I'm being lazy, and that I wasted money on a major that will get me nowhere in the world. 

 3. I consider my writing to be one of the most important things in my life, but no one else in the world seems to acknowledge that. It doesn't seem productive. It doesn't make good money, so sometimes I struggle to think of my writing as worthwhile. 

 4. I have doubts. I doubt that I will ever finish my novel, that I will ever be able to make money from my writing. I worry that though I don't regret studying creative writing, I will now spend the next ten years paying for that decision by working at random jobs to pay for loans.

 But that's where my writing group has been such a blessing to me. I have been blessed with two friends that I made in college that are as serious about their writing as I am, and we have formed an informal writing group. Currently, we report to each other every so often on how we are doing with our writing and we offer each other advice and mostly encouragement. A few weeks ago I shared how I was struggling with my writing lately, especially with starting my part time job, and something one of my friends wrote to me has stuck with me. He said, "You must give yourself grace during this time of transitioning into your job."

 Grace for my writing? Strangely, I have never thought of that. But of course I need to give myself grace. As I am adjusting to my new job, it may take a while to figure things out, establish new patterns, and get back to normal. I need to give myself grace just like Jesus has given me grace for all of my sins.

 And then I realized that I need to give myself grace for all other aspects of my writing, too. There are many times I need to push myself and make myself write even when I don't want to. I need to ignore people who think my major in college was a bad decision. I need to trust God and faithfully do what I believe He has called me to do. But I need to also give myself grace for the times when I do struggle, when I do doubt, when I can't make time to write, when no words are pouring out of me because that happens to every writer. 

 So if you are a writer, give yourself grace just as our Father in Heaven gives us grace. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

In Everything Give Thanks 6-25-16

 Today, I am thankful for many things!

1. A plane ride. I love flying, and I don't know when I'll be able to fly again. 

2. The kind lady on the plane who bought me cough drops.

3. A few days off work.

4. Being able to celebrate the marriage of a dear friend from college, today. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Real Cashier

Register, Cash, Money, Shop, Business
 I remember playing store with my sister when we were young. One of us had received a toy cash register one Christmas that came with toy food and a small conveyor belt. We each took turns being the cashier and the customer, though both of us always wanting to be the cashier, pretending to scan each item and making the "beep" sound as the bananas and cans go through.

 Now, I'm a real cashier at my local dollar store. The inner child in me still loves scanning merchandise. I enjoy the motions of sliding the cereal box across the metal, hearing the beep, and putting it in the bag, only to do it again. 

 But it's a little different now. There's a computer involved that I am still trying to figure out. I have to card people when they buy alcohol or tobacco. I have long lines of people with impatient faces and crying children. There are procedures and systems that don't make sense. I have to tell people to take a survey that I know they don't want to take. Discounts don't ring up, so I call up the manager and the line grows longer as she finds the sign that offers the sale then squabbles with the computer. The stakes are high; if I let a minor buy tobacco, I could lose my job. I have to watch out for shoplifters and follow safety procedures. My co-workers, though none of them mean, are not always easy to work with and make me feel like I am messing things up. Due to the lack of employees, I am being forced to learn by trial and error, which I love when I get a new electronic device, but not when other people's happiness, life, and my job are at stake. I like the swiping. I like hearing the beep. I love the older ladies that smile at me and tell me to take my time. But it's not anything like the fun I imagined when I was five.

 Other than making me emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted, I'm not sure where this leaves me. Though I never thought I would be my favorite pastime, I now know for sure that I don't like working retail. Yet I have to go back to work. I am looking for another job, but most of the ones I have found are still part time, which would add to my income but not let me leave my retail position.

 I guess this leaves me where I am now discovering everything eventually leads to- thanksgiving and prayer. 


 I have a job, and that is a huge blessing. Though I don't like it, it is better than many other jobs, like being a garbage man, a soldier, or working at a cemetery. Maybe as I get to know my co-workers more I can share the gospel with them and invite them to church which is right around the corner from where I work.


  God, I pray that You will give me the strength to get through this job for as long as You have me there. Please help me be at peace, to not be afraid of the fast paced work environment, to simply do my best and be a light for You. However, I also ask that You will provide for me a different job that is more suited to my personality, strengths, and the direction I would like my career to go. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

In Everything Give Thanks 6-11-16

 1. This week, I am especially thankful that I was offered two part time jobs. Neither one is my dream job and I am not sure that logistically I can do both, but either way I am now employed, and that is a huge answer to prayer. 

2. I am also excited that my sister and I will have a long weekend by ourselves while our parents are away. We are going to have so much fun! We made spanakopita for dinner last night and it tasted so good.

3. Finally, I am thankful for my journaling Bible that I finally made my first notes in from last week's sermon. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Dear Twenty-Three Year Old Me

 Dear Twenty-Three Year Old Me,

  I don't know where you're living exactly one year from today. Maybe you'll be on your own in an apartment. Maybe you'll still be living at home. I don't know what you're doing for a job or who your friends are. I hope our friends stay the same, but maybe there will have a mix of both new and old friends.

 I don't think I need to remind you how much stress my current unanswered questions are causing right now. Do you remember? Where should I live? Can I go back to Michigan? Maybe I should live at home longer to save money. Where will I work? How can I afford a car? Should I go to grad school? How can I afford grad school?

 Or maybe I do need to remind you.

 Maybe, now that a whole year has passed and I'm twenty-three, maybe you don't remember all of the questions and uncertainty. Maybe you have settled somewhere and are happy and content. 

 I hope so.

 But even if there is still all of the uncertainty and questions then that there are in my life now, there are some things I know for sure.

 I know I am reading when I am twenty three. I am reading fiction and non-fiction. I am scouring the library for something I haven't read that is decent and good quality.

 I know I am writing when I am twenty-three. I'll probably still be working on my novel, but I will be closer.

 I know I am still a child of God when I am twenty-three, for no one is able to snatch me out of my Father's hands.

 I know that God's promises to me are the same now and will be the same in a year, five years, and until He comes back to earth.

 So twenty-three year old me, in these unanswered questions and uncertainties that I may still have a year from now, there is nothing to fear. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

In Everything Give Thanks


I'm trying something new, and every Friday or Saturday, I'm going to share some things that I am thankful for. Though feeling discontent is nothing new for me, it has become a bad habit as well as a bigger pattern in my life recently, and I want to fight it with recognizing things God has given me today.

 So today, these are things I am thankful for.

 1. The first hike of the summer. Last weekend, my dad and I did an easy hike to ease our way into more challenging hikes later this summer. Except for a bug getting caught in my eye and all the other little gnats that were freakishly attracted to me, it was so much fun. Plus, I am excited to be finally wearing my Christmas present, these new hiking boots. 

2. The smash book my mom made for me. It's a personalized journal that is filled with fun pockets, envelopes, and tags. My sister loves them because instead of writing her memories, she can put in airplane tickets, notes from friends, lists, movie tickets, and other things that she collects. I am planning on making mine a special memory book from my freshman year of college. 

  3. Thank you letters. I sent out quite a few thank you letters this week, and of course you can't write thank you letters without having something to be thankful for. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What Should You Read Based on Your Mood and Interests?

 It's the beginning of summer, and if you're like me, you have been building your summer reading list for a few months now. But if you're also like me you may have a hard time deciding which book to read first. They all sound so good! 

 So to kick off your summer reading, let me give you book suggestions based on your mood, making the decision so much easier!

Anne of Green Gables Fan?

 Have you heard of Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson?

 This novel explains what happened before Anne Shirley came to Green Gables in a similar style to Montgomery's but that also didn't feel like a carbon copy. Reading this book felt like reconnecting with an old friend while at the same learning about the changes in her and her life.


 Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me: What My Favorite Book Taught Me About Grace, Belonging, and the Orphan in Us All by Lorilee Craker

  I haven't read this memoir yet, but it looks like an amazing book about how Anne of Green Gables helped one mom and her adopted daughter through the mess that can sometimes come from adoption.

Love Historical Fiction?

 Try The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner.

 I happened upon this book at a sale and it proved to be a hidden gem. This story takes place during the French Revolution with unique angles from puppeteers to the point of view of gypsies, not to mention the masterful writing. Please note that this book has elements of sorcery that were at times disturbing and terrifying, but it still was an amazing book.


There's The Second Mrs. Gioconda by E. L. Konigsburg.

 A shorter read, this book explores the mystery behind Leonardo da Vinci's painting "The Mona Lisa". My mom read it to my sister and I when we were young, and I have never forgotten it's depth and creativity as the author put her own spin on a historical mystery.

Avid Amish Fiction Reader?

 I suggest Rosanna of the Amish by Joseph W. Yoder.

 Based on a true story, this book takes place in the same area where my dad grew up and I think it is more accurate than most of the popular Amish Fiction books currently on book shelves.


 I also recommend Katie by Clara Bernice Miller.

 Also based on a true story, main character Katie becomes a believer after seeing the legalism in her own Amish community. Despite hardship, she decides to stay and witness to her family and friends. 

In the mood for suspense and mystery?

 Try Playing Saint by Zachery Bartels.

 I started reading this book expecting another Christian suspense novel that was either cliche, too scary for me, or just plain boring, but this book was none of that. I couldn't put it down, but it wasn't just for the plot. This author made me think.


 For any huge Sherlock fans, have you read The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King?

  The first in a series, Sherlock Holmes takes an unlikely apprentice, creating an amazing duo in the crime solving world. As with Playing Saint, I was struck by this books' genius plot twists, characterization, and depth. 

Can't Get Enough of Laura Ingalls Wilder?

 Neither can I! That's why I was so excited when my mom found Mary Ingalls On Her Own by Elizabeth Kimmel Willard.

 It tells the story as imagined by the author of Mary's years at the Iowa School for the Blind.


 You might enjoy Young Pioneers by Rose Wilder Lane.

 Written by Laura's daughter, Young Pioneers is the lovely story of a young couple and their struggles as they begin to build their lives together on their new homestead. 

In the mood for a philosophical read?

  I suggest Life of Pi. 

 This book was one of my favorites before the movie made it even more popular. It's about a religious boy who covers all his bases by becoming a Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian and who finds himself wandering in the middle of the ocean with only a tiger for company. I do highly recommend the movie after you read the book.


  There's the classic The Little Prince. 

 If you want a quicker and less "heavy" philosophical read, The Little Prince is the book for you. As a children's book, it is simplistic but packed with meaning and deep thoughts. I also adored the Little Prince movie that was recently released. 

Need a Laugh?

 Try A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain.


  This is the tale of a modern man who somehow finds himself in England during the reign of King Arthur. With his cleverness and wit, he not only survives, but thrives in this community as he incorporates modern ideals and pastimes like printing a newspaper. 


 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

  I was skeptical when I began reading this satire for my science fiction lit class, but I couldn't put it down because it was so funny. I was reading it in the library, my face over my mouth so my laughs wouldn't echo throughout the whole building. Please note there are a few swear words in this book. 

 Love Children's Books?

  Have you read Wonder by R. J. Palacio?

 This is another book I read for a lit class, and I adored it. It's about a boy named August who has sever deformities and battles the public school for the first time. I loved the message and loved how Auggie's story was told from multiple points of view.


 For something older but just as sweet, try any book in the Cobble Street Cousins series by Cynthia Rylant.

 I have adored these books since I was a little girl and still love flipping through them. It's about three little girls who live with their Aunt Lucy because their parents are ballet dancers on tour and they have many fun adventures in their neighborhood. These books also have the most beautiful illustrations. 

Need a Fairytale or Fantasy Fix?

 Fall in love with Golden by Cameron Dokey.

 Cameron Dokey puts a unique twist on the familiar story of Rapunzel that has always made me jealous as a writer. 


 I suggest Birdwing by Rafe Martin.

 This is another book I found by accident but fell in love with. It acts as a sequel to the fairytale The Seven Swans and the main character is the youngest prince who was left with one arm and one wing. Though I read it years ago, it has remained one of my favorite fairytale novels. Please note that this book should be for older readers due to one "sexual" scene. 

 Time For a Classic?

  The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

  As far as I know, this is a classic that is not very well known that I read for an essay contest that I never entered. Even though I never entered the contest, I enjoyed this book, especially as it has many character's points of view and the whole time the reader is left wondering who stole the moonstone. 


   The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

 Part romance, part historical fiction, this tale of new beginnings, new friendships, and new places warmed my heart as the people of a small island occupied by Germany after WW2 begin to come together to discuss books but find so much more. 

Tired of Being Single?

 Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot

 Forever one of my favorite books on the planet, Elisabeth Elliot shares the love and heartache from waiting to marry the man she loved while weaving through the stories lessons that will never leave you. If you haven't read this book yet, it is a must read for every (yes, I think guys should read it too) Christian. Consider reading it again if you are feeling discontent in your singleness.


 Read Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? by Carolyn McCulley.

 When it comes to books about singleness, this is my second favorite after Passion and Purity. Speaking as a woman who has been single all of her life, Carolyn challenges single ladies to view their single status as a gift from God.   

Just Want Something Different?

  I suggest After Hamelin by Bill Richardson.

  The first word I think of to describe this novel is unique. Richardson creates a new twist on the tale of the Pied Piper, and one girl must enter the world of dreams to rescue all of the children in her town from the evil piper.


 Try The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman.

 Have you ever read a graphic novel? This is my absolute favorite comic. It tells the true story of the author dad, a Holocaust survivor, only as mice. This is an amazing book and changed me as a person as well as my opinion of graphic novels. Please note that even though people are depicted as mice, there are still very hard images and elements to deal with, so read at your own discretion.