A Confession of Feelings

I’ve spent most of the past few months being really angry.

It started with some family crap, and finished with some church crap, and neither crap really needs to be explored here. All the crap is more or less being resolved. God has a way of making crap beautiful. Kudos to Him; it’s hard work working with crap.

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And although I’ve been more of a close observer than a direct victim of it all, the result of everything has been a lot of personal growth and also a lot of personal anger.

I’ve been angry at others for guiding me too much or not guiding me enough, angry at myself for being too strong or not strong enough. Angry at all the foolishness we humans are so gifted at performing.

Thankfully, I haven’t found myself angry at God. Plaintive, yes. Incredulous, frustrated, and feisty, uh-huh. But not angry. I just can’t logically be angry with God when it’s the perversion of His law, not His law itself, that causes so much crap. It’s not you; it’s me.

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I came across the tail end of 2 Peter 3 the other day. One verse stuck out like one of those horrible jumping cactus needles that lies in wait like a bandit and leaps from the sand to lodge itself into the sole of your foot. In this chapter, Peter encourages his loved ones to watch out for false teachers who twist the Scripture out of ignorance and instability.

And then he says this: “You, therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability” (vs. 17).

This cactus needle stuck out because it is the crux of my anger. While I’ve had the gift of being surrounded with Godly people my whole life, I’ve shirked the responsibility of my own stability. Godliness, for most of my life, has meant following this teaching or soaking in that Bible study or laying out a spiritual cookie cutter and lopping off God-given parts of myself so I can fit into the mold of “Christian living”.

I’m angry, because I didn’t recognize the bullshit.

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I thought never standing my ground was being flexible and “led by the Spirit.” I thought never voicing my needs and desires was being “Christlike.” I thought feeling at peace in my walk with the Lord meant I was stagnant. I thought being uncomfortable meant I was listening to His still small voice.

And sometimes, yes sometimes, that is absolutely the case. But when you find yourself guilty for feeling feelings, when you can’t make a decision because you’re striving to discern whether your emotions are fleshly or spiritual when you’ve never known the difference, you might have a stability problem.

I think it’s telling of our Christian subculture that we perpetuate these unstable ideas as Godly. I think we coil ourselves up in shame and confusion so tightly that we go numb and we can no longer recognize the bullshit. And I think we’re wrong, because Jesus Himself said that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matt. 11:30). What right do we have to add weight we were never supposed to bear? To do so is terribly blasphemous.

A relationship with God is harder than fitting into a spiritual cookie cutter, but it’s much more simple. It’s constant, it’s daily, and it’s beautiful. It’s living out the kind of childlike faith we were always meant to have. It’s cutting your own spirit-led path in the woods instead of deepening a rut that hundreds of well-meaning souls have followed.

When you learn to do that, you’re just not angry anymore.

 

 

 

 

Spring Has Sprung, and So Do I.

It’s a warm sunny day here in Western PA, and I am sitting at the coffee shop with a glass of Mango Ceylon ice tea.

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Two of my sisters and I went out for Korean food. I’ve hadn’t had it before, but let me tell you: Korean barbecue is the bestest.

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That green stuff is spinach, sautéed with sesame oil and spices. It definitely makes spinach more palatable. The thing I hate most is soggy, moldy-tasting spinach. >_<

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Spring has sprung! Tiny green buds are popping from tree branches, waking up and stretching out in the warm sun. Every year I know it will happen, and yet every year I am enchanted and filled with delight from my head to my toes. I dance around stupidly and sing songs from The Sound of Music with gusto. I bounce around like, well, a spring (see what I did there?).

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Why is that? We all are refreshed one way or another by spring. There is something about the warm rich smell of dirt that makes our hearts skip a beat. Somehow, by the smells and the light and the textures and colors and tastes and sounds, we are filled with ridiculous, familiar hope.

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I like to think that that feeling of utter joy was meant to be there all the time. God intended for us to always be delighting in His creation, be it through nature or through each other. But when sin entered the world, so did violence and ugliness and lost innocence. Now the pockets of joy we find are hard to come by, hard even to afford.

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But at springtime, we feel that joy again. And it is so familiar, and so natural, that we all long for a time when we can be free to feel it without guilt, pain, or heaviness.

Someday we will.

Before I Say Goodnight

Hey! Guess what? It’s officially Wednesday morning, and I haven’t given you dear folks a post. Sorry about that! Today was our first day back to class after spring break, and well, I was a bit busy. I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you before I say goodnight.

Today I was stressed. I’m getting married. I can’t flunk school. I need money. I need time. I need chocolate. I also need to eat better. And work out more.

All these stresses combined to form one heavy, globular mass. I get stressed easily. This is one of my biggest faults.

I also hadn’t read my Bible in over a week. I do that; I slack off in what matters most. I coddle my body while I starve my soul. This is my biggest fault.

That didn’t help my stress at all. “God, I’m so busy!” I complained. “I need a job! I’m not fit and healthy! I’m always running out of time! Help me! Where are You? Show me that You love me!”

(Now that I see that all written out, I feel like a snotty three year old. Oops.)

And then God lovingly, laughingly reminded me of how stupid I am. A scenario came to mind.

What if Alex were on a trip far away (as he has been before), and so he, being the wonderful guy that he is, sent me some texts to let me know he loves me and misses me (as he has done before)? That would be swell.

But what if I never opened the texts and instead sat around crying because I missed him and wanted to hear from him, to know he was there, missing and loving me? That would be really stupid. There I am crying because I want to hear from Alex when he has already sent me several texts that are probably full of declarations of love, mushy emoticons, and stuff like that. There I am whining for some communication when it has already been made.

All I need to do is read it.

(For the record, this scenario has never happened. I am not that stupid.)

…except when it comes to reading the Bible. Then I am indeed very stupid.

When that scenario came to mind I had to laugh, and I sensed that God was probably laughing too, with me. (And also probably at me, which is okay, ’cause so was I). How eye-opening spiritual situations become when they are put in practical settings! Makes you realize why Jesus used so many parables.

So I hope this encourages you to “open those texts” from God (eek. I never thought I’d say something like that. Cheesy.) Please excuse me as I say goodnight and do just that.

Thoughts for the Creative Juices

“Here, these ought to get your creative juices flowing.” my aunt presented me with a box of vibrant purple glass beads. I was twelve, and in the middle of a jewelry-making phase. Heck yeah it got the creative juices flowing. For the next few years I made necklaces, bracelets, and key chains with those heavy purple glass beads. I paired them with leather cord, silver charms and glass seed beads. It was grand.

The jewelry making craze has passed me by, but the phrase “creative juices” still comes to mind every now and then. Now they pertain more to writing for me. I’ll have bursts of creativity where my cup of juice runneth over and I crank out writing like crazy (today was one of those days). Other times, however, the cup is dry and it’s a struggle just to put a post on this blog.

So, in an attempt to get creative juices flowing, for me and for you, I had some questions and I’d love some feedback. Whether you’re a writer, a painter, a seamstress or any other kind of artist, I hope these thoughts help to spur you on to more creativity and love for what you do! Let me know your thoughts in the comments. We’ll have a bit of a party! :o)

What subject or item do you most love to write about/paint/create?

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Is there a particular theme that always pops up in your writing? Does some kind of symbol always show up in your art? Do you really like to sew the same thing over and over? For me as a writer, I love writing about nature, at least in poetry. To me there’s something about every day that’s beautiful. Nature has so many facets, so many hidden pockets just waiting to be discovered. Even the most dreary, soggy days can be so beautiful. I call them “poetic days” because of their potential. :o)

What emotions/situations cause the desire to create?

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When you feel lonely, do you head for the knitting needles? Does elation make you want to write until kingdom come? Does anger fuel inspiration at your piano? I can get in these really thoughtful moods where I contemplate and question everything (usually on poetic days). These times are best for burrowing deep into my thoughts, usually with a good cup of coffee or tea, and writing what I find. It’s like mining. Other days, though, I skip around clicking my heels and can’t wipe the silly grin off my face. My writing grows whimsical and sweet. Gosh, I’m a very emotional writer, aren’t I? How very womanly of me.

What do you want to use your art for?

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You devote yourself to your art, whatever it is, for hours a day. You gain knowledge and make mistakes. You soar and you plummet. The question is, what do you do it all for?

A lot of people see art in its various forms as a way to express oneself. Some people see this as the only reason for art at all. That reason has never sat well with me. Yes, creative people have to express their inspiration, but just regurgitating your inner creativity for the heck of it doesn’t feel like a good enough reason for me. To me, art is a way to take and interpret the world around us, and to cause others to think about it in a different way. It should build up and encourage the artist and audience, not destruct or discourage. It should bring something new and good to the world. That’s how I want my writing to operate. What do you think? Why do you create what you create?

So, let me know your thoughts! I’d love to get a discussion going on creativity, writing, and art in general. This isn’t usually the kind of post I write, but I don’t hear enough from you folks out there. :) I’m excited to learn more about your art, whatever it may be (and trust me, it can be anything). Hopefully this discussion will inspire you and get your creative juices flowing!

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More Book Teasers! And a Roundup!

Hello everyone!

It’s the last day of February! Isn’t that crazy? I am actually pretty excited. I know you shouldn’t wish away the year, but I’m at least wishing away February. So far it’s been pretty… meh. Weather wise, mostly.

This week we submitted our drafts for the upcoming book to our editor (read: professor). With the way I revamped my story, I’m really excited to see what he thinks. I’ve had some good feedback from our peer workshopping, and I’ve gotten to read some really great drafts myself! This book is going to be so cool, guys. It’s like an encyclopedia of memories and stories. With the approximately 27 contributors to this book, it will cover a huge range of viewpoints, themes, and ideas – a huge collection of stories about people from all walks of life. Are you excited yet?

If not – or if you like to be over the top excited – here’s a snippet of my draft. I hope that these quotes the past few weeks have been interesting. I want to give you a taste without spoiling your appetite (nice metaphor, eh?).

     “I was thinking about that guest book we have here.” He pointed to the notebook at the coffee bar where visitors often left messages and little doodles. Some of them were from local patrons but others were from out of towners who had somehow found the small-town coffee shop and made their mark on it.

“Wouldn’t it be something,” said Frank, “to write about that book? About all the people that come in and out of the coffee shop every day? I think that would be something. Now, if you write a book like that, let me know and I’ll be your proofreader. I’ve certainly got lots of experience.”

 

What do you think? Do you want to keep reading? In just a few short weeks, my friends, that will be a reality! Our publishing date is getting close – April 15 is the day!

Whoo, I got myself a little wound up. As this is the last weekend of the month (indeed, the last day of the month), let me not forget to post a roundup of all the top posts for February! Somehow I was able to push through the winter blues and write some stuff people liked. Huh!

In How to Survive Winter (in Eleven Easy Steps), I offer an easy do-it-yourself guide for getting through the winter months. March is here, true, but you may still need this one for a few weeks yet. Don’t go it alone!

In Heart Day, I shared my crocheted heart valentines and another snippet from the upcoming book. Need to get a start on next year’s valentines (or need to whip up some belated ones)? Check it out!

Finally, I shared the joy of being stupid. Wonderfully Stupid offers food for thought on how we view God, the world, and ourselves. I hope it’s helpful and insightful for you!

Well, have a great weekend folks! Enjoy the last of February 2015. And be sure to let me know your thoughts on today’s post! Does the idea of our book sound interesting? What do you think of my excerpts? And what are your thoughts on the top posts this month? Any favorites, even of posts that didn’t make the “top posts” list? Oh, and if you are celebrating the end of February (as I am), let me know. I think a cake and balloons are appropriate :).

Stay frosty!

Wonderfully Stupid

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Something about us just can’t stand when another person is wrong.

Have you ever been there? Has your blood ever boiled over until you explode in a steamy rage? Has it ever simmered quietly, slowly fermenting your bitterness?

Sometimes the reactions are justified. My blood boils when I’m at the supermarket and I see a parent being cruel to their child. It boils when I think of tyrannical world leaders who live in luxury while their citizens are kept in a brutal grip. It boils when I hear of families torn apart because of utter and senseless selfishness.

Usually, though, my anger is not so noble.

My bitterness simmers when I see the person at church who is vocal about their religious convictions – convictions I do not share. It simmers when a friend is so busy I feel that they don’t have time for me. It simmers when loud and obnoxious people on Facebook shout their loud and obnoxious political opinions that I disagree with.

Before I know it, I become overwhelmed with the need to correct this wrong behavior I see in other people. If only everyone knew what I knew, and lived the way I live, and see what I see.

But the Lord reminds me of something that turns the heat down on my blood. The simmering and boiling stop.

He reminds me that people are stupid.

That might not sound like a very nice thing for God to say. But the catch is that I am also a person. Therefore, I am also stupid.

I’m stupid, you’re stupid, we’re all stupid.

Sometimes I wonder if God watches us run around getting mad at each other for trivial reasons and just shakes His head in amused befuddlement, like when your beloved dog barks hysterically because someone made a noise and apparently that means the apocalypse is nigh. You love that creature but gosh, it’s so stupid.

I think God understands that our brains can’t see or comprehend all that goes on around us. He understands that we can’t read each other’s minds and know each other’s hearts. He knows that we are wonderfully, beautifully stupid.

The other day I was praying and I realized that I can’t even fully wrap my mind around the idea of God. I’m so used to sending my thoughts and prayers skyward that God starts to feel like an imaginary friend who lives in the ceiling. It hit me that day that no, God is quite real, and someday I will meet Him face to face, and my brain will finally work fully. All that I don’t know or understand will hit me with a duh!, and I think we will both laugh because I was so stupid.

The knowledge of my stupidity doesn’t depress me as it could. Rather, it gives me hope as I lean on the One with infinite wisdom, patience, and understanding. The knowledge also helps me to be more understanding of those around me. We are in the same boat. We are all human. We are all idiots.

For my brothers and sisters in Christ, I have greater peace, because I know that they, like me, know the One who loves them and guides their lives. I may heartily disagree with where they are and what they do, but I have to trust that God directs them. I have to answer the question: do I trust God, who loves this person more than I ever could and by His Holy Spirit is guiding them better than I ever will, to lead this person where they should go?

How can that answer be anything but yes?

This is something I’ve struggled with. With God’s help I’ve come from being a very judgemental person into being a more open minded person. I am not talking about real, active sin in someone’s life. That’s a different thing entirely. I am talking about individual convictions, the gray areas where interpretation of Scripture can be unclear or entirely personal. It’s often these little differences that cause our blood to boil more than the monumental ones. They’ve torn churches apart and brought violence between the very people who should be known by their love.

So I challenge us to be okay with being imperfect, shortsighted, and all around stupid. When you see your own stupidity, you shrink in your own eyes, and then you are in a better place to love and relate to the people around you. The extra laughter you get at your own expense is an added bonus.

So go ahead, admit you’re stupid. Honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

Done is the Draft!

Hey! It’s Saturday. Hallelujah!

And Hey! I finished the draft of my story. Hallelujah!

This draft is much more true to the scope of the book. It also feels a lot truer to life, and the end result of both is that it is something I think I’d be proud to have my name on. So I see this as a good sign. :) More news is forthcoming but for now here’s an except. Enjoy your weekend everyone!

“He was ninety-one, still lived alone, and still had a driver’s license. Everyone insisted he didn’t look a day over eighty.”

45 Degrees

Hello all!

I hope you had a splendid weekend. We had a lovely two days of 45 degrees (Fahrenheit), which melted a bunch of snow and left a fresh, floral scent in the air. Tomorrow it’s back to ice and snow however – February always has the most curious weather.

So, enough about the weather. That’s boring. This post is really meant to be an update on the stories of our book! Here is where I must make a confession: I’ve been lax. I haven’t edited the rough draft at all (gulp). The past week has been busy beyond belief, and when I have spare moments I waste them on naps or staring at the ceiling (though I’m not quite convinced those are wastes in themselves).

I have a lot of work to do on my story, and I’m intimidated by it. It’s a long tower I have to climb, and I’m afraid of heights. I’m afraid to even scale the first few feet. I’ve certainly thought about it, of course. I’ve even considered building a new tower entirely. But I know I have something good here and I need to stick to it, and I’m determined to.

So, that’s my astounding progress. How riveting! Here’s to finishing it this week (I’ve no choice – deadlines! heh.) Here’s to hacking away at my sculpture until it’s a work of art – even if it’s abstract art I’ll be pleased.

Here’s to climbing that darned tower!

How to Survive Winter (in Eleven Easy Steps)

Ah, winter. It is the season of cozy, and I love cozy, but I hate how for some reason people still expect me to go out and do things. No! Let me stay home and be cozy, gosh darnit! Unfortunately, I am overruled. Life must unreasonably go on.

For those of you who might be suffering from winter blues (or the sheer deficiency of coziness), I offer eleven easy ways to survive the winter season. You can do it!

 

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Wear (fake or real) Fur. 

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Somehow it’s just really wintry. No matter how cold it is, with my fur-trimmed coat and boots, I look like a rugged tundra dweller (which the weather apparently thinks I am). And the coolness of it takes your mind off of the reason for it.

 

Drink Coffee or Tea (or cocoa, if you must). 

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Some people choose – ahem – other drinks to drown their troubles, but honestly these beverages are what life is made of. A steaming cup of coffee or tea will vanquish any winter blues.

 

Build a Snowman. Knock it Down. Repeat. 

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Build it first because, it’s winter and that’s fun. Knock it down because, it’s winter and you have to take your anger out on something. Build it again because, poor snowman. What did he ever do to you?

 

Take up Knitting.

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I always have to push for this. But seriously, what’s cozier than a big ball of yarn and two sturdy needles and being productive while you’re watching TV? nothing. And that brings me to my next point:

 

Become Good Friends with Sir Netflix, Lord Book, and Count Music.

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They are jovial fellows who offer hours of amusement. Lord Book is slightly more intellectual, but from time to time even Sir Netflix can come up with some doozies. Count Music is more unassuming; he prefers to stay in the background but can be persuaded to be the life of the party, given the right circumstances.

 

Take Pictures. 

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Honestly, it’s beautiful outside. Revel in it. Look for beauty where before you were tempted to only see icy torture. It’s there. I promise.

 

Stand Alone in the Woods While it’s Snowing.

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This is specific, but it’s a must on your bucket list. Stand still, hold your breath, and listen to the snow fall. It’s the most beautiful experience in the world. BONUS: You’ll feel like you’re in Narnia.

 

Eat. 

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Be careful with this one. It has a tendency to bite back at you in the end (see what I did there?). But there’s nothing more lovely than toast and a good thick soup on a winter’s day. Yum yum yum.

 

Choose Warmth Over Style. 

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And if you can, choose both. Fabulous.

 

Snuggle. 

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Hugs and Snuggles are the best thing ever, especially in winter. Find a pet, a pillow, or a person (preferably one you know  — very well) and stay close.

 

Chin Up!

Remember the words of Mr. Shelley:

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And above all, stay frosty my friends!

Holy February Batman!

Hello everyone! You don’t usually see a Monday post from me, do you? Well, this was supposed to be done on Saturday, but I just had the most smash-bang busiest busy weekend anyway, so that did not work out.

So, here is my belated laundry list of recent happenings. I am also going to re-post some of the top posts of the month of January. Can you believe it’s February? Hallelujah – one month closer to spring! PA is having a brutal winter, very cold and snowy, and our North Carolina beach honeymoon plans are sounding very nice right now.

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I bought my wedding dress on Saturday! This is the only peek you will likely see until June, so revel in it.

We got our first feedback for drafts of the upcoming Book We Are Publishing on Friday. It was encouraging and challenging. I have a lot of writing to do, but I am excited. The book is supposed to be a collection of creative nonfiction short stories about someone we know or knew. Unfortunately, creative nonfiction is not my strong suit. My story came out more creative than nonfiction, but this was only the rough draft. I take great comfort in that. Stay tuned for progress!

Now, the fun part. Whether you are new to my blog or have reading for quite some time, let me just say that I am beyond blessed and blown away that I have such a number of faithful readers. When I started blogging regularly, just a few months ago, I wanted my words to reach and resonate with people. I think all writers want that. But you know, writing can be scary. It can be hard to communicate your thoughts and feelings with the fear that people won’t like them, think they’re stupid, or even worse, never see them at all.

So I say a hearty thank you for reading my blog! It means so much to me and encourages me to keep writing. I’ve had great feedback from so many of you, and I am thankful for the chance to connect with people I would have otherwise never know. Thank you for that opportunity.

I also want to re-share some of my top posts from January in case you happened to miss them (or just wanna read them again… that’s okay with me :o). In Real, I recounted the story of how I got engaged and what a doofus I was. You don’t want to miss that. Rambles of a College Student was a big hit, which I don’t fully understand because it was just that. Maybe that’s why. Anyhoo.

Finally, check out I Read Harry Potter (and I didn’t tell my mom). This is to date the biggest post on my blog, which is so exciting! In this post I give my thoughts on the great debate between lovers and haters of the Harry Potter series and what my opinion as a Christian is on the matter. It could take you by surprise, and I am quite funny, so you should check it out! ;)

Well that’s it for today folks. Lunch is in a bit, and heaven forbid I miss that!

Stay frosty my friends!