Monday, May 22, 2017

Finding Balance






Bit of a control freak

Lost in chaos

I don't function well in chaos. I don't function well with uncertainty. I don't function well when I can't understand things.

And I keep trying.

I keep trying to find the reason why I'm having trouble writing and dreaming.

I keep trying to make a definitive plan for the way my life will go.

I keep trying to control everything in my life that I possibly can.

And I sabotage myself. 

I over-analyze my writing and that makes it even harder to write.

I overthink my struggles with music and it causes me to shut down.

I overanalyze the way I want my life to go and the things I feel should lead to that place, and it stresses me out and depresses me because for most of it, I have literally no control.

And I know I can't live live irresponsibly and throw caution to the wind.

I can't eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

I can't live with no goals and no path.

And so I begin to overanalyze again.

I have to find the balance.

I have to learn to lean on God and let Him control my life.

I have to let go of what control I think I have and accept that His ways are higher than my ways.

I have to live responsibly and be a good steward of what God has given me, but I have to let Him take the reins...He has them anyway.

It shouldn't be stressful not to be in control, because God is in control.

I shouldn't be so intent on understanding everything, because God understands everything.

I have to trust. Because the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Creator of all is in control of my life, and His way is always best.

P.S. I'm going to be taking an internet break next week for Memorial Day.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Out of Time and the Pursuit of Shalom

There was once a time when only God knew the day you'd die.

So begins the Out of Time trilogy by Nadine Brandes. A journey of faith, a fight for freedom, the pursuit of shalom.

Parvin Brielle Blackwater has one year left to live. Scheduled to die at the age of 18, she's spent the first 17 years of her life...doing nothing. Wasting her time. Living a mundane, average, everyday life that won't get remembered. Watching her Clock tick down the days, hours, minutes, seconds until she zeroes out.

How would you live if you knew the day you'd die?

But the truth is, Parvin doesn't know that she has only a year left to live because she's been illegally sharing a Clock with her twin brother Reid, and no one knows to whom it truly belongs. As a selfish Last Year wish, she decides she wants to be remembered. She wants to finally be something, so that she will be missed.

What happens to people on the other side of the Wall?

Unregistered Radicals--people without Clocks--are sent out of the USE, across the Wall, never to be seen again. When Parvin is sent across the Wall, her life changes forever.

Because what is the point of life? What good is there in living an ordinary life, meeting your own needs, never making a difference? When you zero out, what will have been the point? Will you have wasted your life, being empty numbers, or will your life mean something? Will you stand for something? Will you pursue shalom?

Shalom--peace, completeness, the way God intended things to be.

After living a wasted life, after setting out on an adventure to make herself remembered, Parvin finds what life is supposed to mean. She finds faith--true reliance on God. She finds friends--people who support her and encourage her to follow God's calling. She finds purpose--the pursuit of shalom.

Life isn't easy for Parvin Blackwater. This is a book series, after all, and a dystopian at that. Many horrible, irrevocable things happen. But what matters is God and the calling He gave her to bring shalom to her people. To work to make peace, to bring things to completion, to restore the USE to the way God intended it to be--not in her own power, but ever and only by the power of God.

Was it all worth it? Was this wild adventure that changed my nation, my heart, and my faith worth it? Oh my, yes. All because, after a desperate prayer on a hospital floor so long ago, God showed me that--with Him . . . it's always time to live.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be pre-Last Year Parvin Blackwater. I don't want to be wasting my life living in a little village taking care of my own business, believing in God, yes, but trusting in Him, only to an extent. I want to be faithful Parvin Blackwater. I want to be the Parvin who put everything on the line to serve God. The Parvin who continually stepped out of her comfort zone and did whatever God called her to do, even though she hadn't a clue what she was getting herself into. I want to be the Parvin who never stops in pursuing shalom, who fights for the way God intended things to be.

There was once a time when only God knew the day you'd die...

I highly recommend the Out of Time series for teens and adults.

Monday, May 8, 2017

As I Grow Up...

I turned 21 two weeks ago, and it caused me to do a lot of looking back on my life. I've grown up. I'm not the same person I used to be, I've let go of some of my childish dreams, found new ones, realized others. Over the last 21 years, I've matured so much as a person, as a Christian, as a writer. And yet as I look back, I can see how my past--the good, the bad, the embarrassing--shaped who I am today. As this blog is primarily focused on writing and books, I thought it would be interesting to take a journey through my writing.

Age 4: Bambi's Gonna Go To Faline

Background: I dictated this story to my mom, and gave it to my dad. My mom just wrote down what I said, she didn't try to interpret. This is my first recorded story.

Full Story: Bambi, Faline, and Thumper. "That ball," said Thumper. Be careful.
     Box chair.
     See Bambi grew up. Bambi said that I want a phonics game. Bambi went to get married to Faline. 
     Then Thumper said, "When will we go home?" Bambi's crayon was at home.
     Then Bambi wanted to ride on the chair and Thumper wanted to ride in a stroller. Then Bambi wanted to ride with Thumper. He wanted to bring a ball and bowling pin.
     Flower wanted to ride home in a chair, in a rocking chair. When he didn't know that rocking chairs didn't have wheels.
     Owl wanted to ride home in a stroller with Thumper and Bambi. Then it was full after Owl got in. It was full.
     Then Faline wanted to ride with Thumper and Bambi and Owl. Then Faline noticed that it was full.
     And then there was no one in the folding up chair with wheels. Then they all went home and where Bambi was living.
     They saw the videos in Bambi's house. They wanted to watch Bambi in the snow. Then Bambi saw that he was a little tiny baby skating on ice and playing in the snow. Then he went home. Then he saw his mommy.
     Bambi looked outside and saw snow, and he wanted to go outside and do what he did when he was littler.
     The End

Age 6 1/2: The Best Birthday Ever

Background: I wrote this for my youngest sister's birthday. The spelling and punctuation is copied directly from the original. It also demonstrates my Little House obsession.

Full Story: It was Anna's fifth birthday and there was still no sign of any cake, presents or party. She thought maybe everyone had forgotten it was her birthday.
     Suddenly a cake came throuh the kitchen door. Who did that thout Anna knowing a cake can't move all by itself. Anna went to get the cake.

     Just then a present came through the door. Just as she was about to pick it up four more came in. "Whos doing that?" she asked out loud. Suddenly Caroline, Eliza, Martha, Charlotte, Lydia, Mary Tucker, Mary Ingals, Laura, Carie, Rose and her own sister Maryen. "Maryen this is the best birthday suprise ever." "Just wait til you taste the cake. It's even better than your favorite kind of cake.
     "When can we do the cake?" asked Anna. "After the games are played," said Maryen. "Let's play gess what I am," said Anna "I want to go first," said Charlotte. "No me," said Caroline.
     "Niether of you," said Maryen. "The birthday girl gets to go first." So Anna went first, she was a baker.
     Eliza went next then Caroline then Martha then Charlotte. Then they had cake. The cake was better than her favorite and she loved it. One of her presents was a barbie another was a book. She loved them all.
     The End 

Age 7: Carrie Mouse and the Giant Garage

Summary: Carrie Mouse disobeys her parents and journeys to the big house at the bottom of the hill where she gets trapped in the garage for weeks. Based on the true story of the mouse that got stuck in our garage.

Snippet: She ran down the giant mountain and over to the giant house. She was about to walk in the giant garage when four giants walked up behind her!
     Scared, she ran as fast as she could into the giant garage. She leaned down on the floor and ran toward a giant workbench.
     Days passed and Carrie’s throat got dry and dusty under the giant workbench. She looked for water in which to bathe and to drink. She also looked for food. 
     Carrie found a packet that looked like food behind a giant basketball goal. Carrie had been to school, so she could read the writing on the packet. It said, “D-Con kills mice,” so she did not eat it.

Age 8: Margville's Aliens

Summary: While playing outside, Rachel, Maria, and Martha notice that spaceships are blocking the sky. They ask the aliens to leave, and meet Martert Alvarny, who thought that earth had no need of the sun.

Snippet: Suddenly, a door opened in the spaceship in the middle of all of the spaceships, and down a ladder came a big purple alien. The purple alien had 10 eyes, 6 arms (3 on each side), and one leg that he hopped on. He had a purple, round long nose that stuck out of his chin and a square mouth that was on his forehead. He was wearing yellow one-legged pants and one yellow sock. He had on a six-armed red shirt with 15 tiny buttons up the front. He had one purple and red tennis shoe on his one foot.
     Then the alien spoke. “My name is Martert Alvarny and I am very sorry that we blocked your special sun. On my planet Uranus we don’t really need the sun,” he said.
     “I’m Rachel McAlner and you live in our solar system,” said Rachel.
     “I’m Maria Monners,” said Maria.
     “Nice to meet you, Martha, Rachel and Maria,” said Martert. “I will return to Uranus with my crew. Good bye.”
     “Good bye!” said Martha, Rachel and Maria together.
     Then, Martert returned to his spaceship and all of the square spaceships flew away.

Age 9: The Day of the Awful Lillian

Summary: A girl and her siblings visit her aunt and uncle's house in the country, and a friend and a strange girl named Lillian pick on them. My sister and neighbor were being annoying one day, so I turned it into a story.

Snippet: It was all yesterday. We were at Auntie Daedae’s, and a girl named Lillian came. Margaret, the sister of my friend Minnie, came with us, and she and Lillian made fast friends. They agreed on not so nice things. They cut down some of Auntie Daedae’s apples and plums from the trees, making Sally, Eliza and I pick them up.
      Then they went off to dig some dirt and take some of our cousin Ranna’s ground fruit (A fruit of a foreign country) (note: this was actually just dirt) to make something called mush bush pie. We went on making my plum pie. We went to get some ground fruit, and then they followed us to Uncle George’s bananas. As I gathered the bananas they followed us. Then they took my pie and dumped it onto the ground.

Age 9: Margville's Second Alien Invasion

Summary: When the Martians attack Margville, the girls and their siblings have to call in Martert Alvarny to help. All the aliens come to defend Margville in the slime war.

Snippet: “Oh no! We need Martert Alvarny!” exclaimed Martha. They all began to call for Martert.
     “It’s hopeless,” sighed Dicon. Suddenly, in the sky above appeared the spaceship of… “Martert Alvarny!” shouted the children. Martert hopped down a ladder toward the children....
     Then he blew a very loud horn. All of the sudden, CRASH! BANG! CRASH! Spaceships fell and formed the words, WE DEFEAT MARTIANS. Martert blew his horn again and bunches of aliens stood beside the many spaceships....
     “He’s gonna help,” Maria said.
     “You help? Here. I order,” Martert said, and handed him a slime gun. Mr. McAlner squirted slime at the Martians. Then the Martians dropped their slime guns and covered their faces. The Martian Chief waved his arms and shouts “Ooka! Vee stoop!”
     Collin sighed. It was exciting, but he was glad it was over.

Age 11/12: Danger in the Woods

Summary: Amber Eastman's Uncle Carelton comes home from traveling after the Civil War with a wife, Sarah. Amber and her friend Catherine set out to find Sarah's missing brother, Ethan, and catch thieves in the process. This was my first completed chapter book.

Snippet: “Drop the knife!” Amber ordered in her deepest, sternest voice. Startled, Lancey dropped the knife. Slowly he turned around. When he saw Amber, a sly grin spread over his face.
     “So. It’s a little girl,” Lancey snarled. He leaned down and picked up his knife.
     “I may be a little girl,” Amber said with outward calmness. “But the posse coming to arrest you isn’t.” She crossed her fingers and hoped and prayed that there really was someone coming to the rescue.
     “What posse?” Lancey snapped.
     “Just some sharp shooting farmers and the sheriff.” She prayed harder than ever that it was true.
     “And they left a little girl to keep watch.” Lancey lifted his knife and crept toward Amber.
     Amber tried not to panic. “Not just me. His sister.” She pointed at Ethan. Lancey had almost reached her. 

Age 13: Angela Webster and the Case of the Missing Soda

Summary: Angela Webster and Karly Kenton are on a mission to find the men who stole soda from their fathers' store in the idealistic town of Cedar Village. In the process, Karly falls through the loft of the old barn and breaks her leg, causing Angela to have to ask another friend to accompany her on a stake out. But of course, rescue by older brothers becomes a necessity. Note: "bad guy talk" was very difficult for me at the time. I just couldn't make them sound mean enough.

Snippet: The girls tiptoed in and hid under the hay. Then they waited. After what seemed like hours, but was really only ten minutes, a man tramped into the barn. He sat down, but was soon up again, pacing. Angela’s nose began to itch, but she didn’t dare move to scratch it. At that moment in came a man with a flashlight. He shone it all around, but he did not spot the girls. The other man, who was Christopher Mundy, began to tremble noticeably.
     No wonder he’s scared, Angela thought.
     Lervy Parnick was a huge man, tall and bald and broad. His eyebrows were bushy and the dark eyes underneath them glared evilly. He had big snarling lips. Angela was thoroughly frightened. “Christopher Mundy!” he said in a deep growly voice. “What ever made you think there were dumb little kids onto our plan? There is no need for me to be here! There is no one onto our plans. We should have gotten safely to Florida! I am so angry that I have half a mind to kill you!” Mundy gasped. “That would never do,” Parnick continued. “I need you to add to my booty.”
     “Your booty?” Mundy asked.
     Instantly Parnick had grabbed Mundy’s collar and lifted him into the air. “My booty,” he snarled. “And unless you do exactly what I say, you won’t see a penny of it.” He flung Mundy against the wall and continued. “We will rob this entire town, beginning with the house this road leads to. You will cart it all back to our getaway car.”

Age 14: Across the Stars

Summary: After discovering a spaceship that takes them to a planet two galaxies away, five children must use their combined knowledge of battle strategy and American history to free the distant planet from the oppressive tyrant which is its king. This is when I started to become a serious writer. It was also the book that caused me to start carrying the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in my purse.
Snippet: Charles sat in the pilot’s seat, trying to make sense of an instruction manual he had found. Sara sank into the other seat.
     “Do you understand any of it?” she asked.
     “Maybe.” Charles turned to his older sister. “Sara, we’re actually traveling faster than the speed of light.”
     “But that’s impossible,” Sara protested. “Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity says that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light in that same substance.”
     “Well, that’s what Einstein says, but that’s not what this instruction manual says.”
     “You would rather believe an instruction manual than Albert Einstein?” Sara asked incredulously.
     “I figure that whoever wrote this instruction manual knows an awful lot more about this ship than Einstein.”
     Sara conceded the argument. Charles certainly had a point and she was in no mood to argue. Charles closed the instruction manual. He pointed to the words on the front: The Ship of Divine Purpose.
     “What do you suppose that means?” Sara asked.
     “I was hoping you could tell me.”
     Sara sighed. “I suppose if we’re meant to know we’ll find out somehow.” 

Age 16: The Experiment

Summary: In a future where American liberty has been eradicated, kidnapped siblings must overturn a plot by the President and a torture-loving scientist to control the lives and minds of the American people . . . before it's too late. Inspired by two dreams, an extrapolation of the direction America seems to be headed, and featuring characters based on real people, this book holds a special place in my heart. Note: once my cousin quoted it to me and I didn't know what she was talking about. Oops.

Snippet: Edmund and Anne glanced at each other and began to eat. Oh, what a feast! There was fried chicken and ham and turkey and stuffing and corn on the cob and hot buttered rolls and green beans and a dozen kinds of soup, all much more than Anne and Edmund could ever eat. And it was good, better than anything they had ever tasted.
     But a cold feeling began to grow in the pit of Edmund’s stomach. His fork stopped halfway to his mouth.
     “Why are you doing this?” he asked.
     The woman laughed her silvery laugh. “Doing what?”
     Edmund set his fork down. “Feeding us like this. What’s your motive?”
     She laughed again. “It pleases me to see children eat,” she said. The woman seated herself beside Edmund and loaded more turkey onto his plate. Then she stroked his hair with her fingers. “I would be pleased if you would answer a few questions.”
     Edmund pushed her hand away. “What sort of questions?” 

Age 16/17: Creighton Hill

Summary: Following their grandpa’s death, four siblings set out to discover the truth behind the mysterious disappearances of their ancestors throughout history. But their teenage sister’s skepticism only complicates things, especially when she becomes unwillingly involved in the discovery.
Snippet: With a blinding flash, the wall before them became a mountain forest in midmorning, a beautiful sight to behold. Behind them was the attic, just as it had been before.
     “Should we go through?” Jill asked.
     “Oh, so now you want to walk into a dream?”
     “Why not?” Joey said. “If it is a dream, Emily, you’ll just wake up and it won’t have happened.”
     Allan and Jill exchanged a glance. “Let’s do it,” he said. The children took each other’s hands and together stepped into the forest. The attic vanished behind them. 

Age 17: The Crossways

Summary: A young slave boy gets swept into the Time Captives’ quest to free the rightful king of Calhortz, but he may have a larger role to play than any of them realize.

Snippet: The dragon lumbered towards him. Adriel raised his sword and lunged at the great beast, rapidly covering the space between them.
     A blast of flame enveloped Adriel. He hid behind his shield. The heat was intense. He felt as if he were about to melt from it. He struck blindly towards the massive beast. His sword sliced through air. The crowd laughed again. Adriel gritted his teeth. He wasn’t a comedian. He wasn’t providing satire.
     The flames subsided. Lowering his shield, Adriel struck with a ferocity unequaled by any he had ever shown. His sword glanced off the dragon’s snout. The dragon swatted its claw at Adriel’s head. He ducked under its foreleg and stabbed upward. The dragon reared, letting off a roar and flame. It shot into the air, wheeled around, and headed straight for Adriel. Adriel crouched beneath his shield. It grew hotter by the minute. Rae emitted a high-pitched shriek as the dragon crashed down on top of him. 

Age 18: Espionage

Summary: In the midst of an alliance controversy, a nobleman's daughter must expose a heinous scheme by her father's political arch-enemy to force him to align with the evil strytes of Calhortz.

Snippet: The light came closer. Someone grabbed my left hand and pulled me into a room. I crouched down leaning against the wall. As the candlelight passed with heavy footsteps, I found myself looking into Kyle’s face. I opened my mouth to speak, but he quickly put his finger over his lips. I remained silent and tugged my dressing gown closer about me.
     The footsteps faded away, leaving us in utter darkness. I heard Kyle move about the room for a minute or two, and then a soft orange glow allayed the blackness. I shivered, shaking from the near encounter and the growing certainty that whatever Sir Roland was planning harbored nothing good for my family, but especially for Papa. Then it dawned on me that Kyle must have heard the same things I did.
     “What are you doing here?” I asked him.
     He turned from the oil lamp on the wall he had just ignited. “I ought to be the one to ask you. This is my home and it is my father we were both spying on.”
     I looked sheepishly down at the floor. “Well, I . . .” 

Age 18: Crannig Castle

Summary: Adriel and the Time Captives are finally faced with war against Toarna. But can Adriel and Eleanor put their personal missions aside and focus on the fate of the people of Calhortz?

Snippet: “Eleanor!” The voice was weaker than she remembered, but she knew it well.
     “Grant.” She fairly flew across the room and threw herself into his arms. He gently stroked her hair. “I missed you so much,” she whispered.
     “I missed you too.” He held her back to look at her face. “You’re just as young and pretty as ever.”
     Tears began to well up in Eleanor’s eyes as she beheld the toll time had taken on Grant. Where the skin on his face had once been firm and smooth, it was now wrinkled and sagging. His once-thick hair barely covered his head. But his eyes. They were just the same: full of fun and mischief, shining with love. 

Age 19/20: The Cassie Story

Summary: A spaceship pilot and his crew accidentally travel away from their perfect Milky Way society. But what they find in the galaxy of Stappenhance challenges everything they know about life. I'm still not finished with this book, but since I've completed two drafts at this point, I'm including it anyway.

Snippet: “Sharissa is my lovely and very talented assistant.” Dr. Hawling stepped behind her and laid a hand on her shoulder for a moment. “I understand you have an assistant as well, Luke.”
     “I have a copilot.”
     “The lovely young redhead who accompanied you when you came to stay with us earlier this week? What was her name?”
     He didn’t need to answer any questions. Dr. Hawling was prying where he did not belong. Still he spoke her name. “Cassie.”
     “Charming girl.” Something about the way Dr. Hawling said it made Luke’s skin crawl.
     “You have a reason for asking me here.” Luke wanted to do his business and leave. He didn’t want to be around Dr. Hawling and Sharissa any longer than was necessary.
     “Yes.” Dr. Hawling pulled a paper and pen out of a drawer and handed it to Luke. “I think I’ve made a bit of a breakthrough on your case. I’d like to do some tests, but I need you to sign this release form first.”
     Luke scanned the paper. “What is it for?”
     “It’s just a standard agreement for the lawyers. I’m not liable if something goes wrong.”
 Age 19: Twisted Dreams

Summary: What if, when Sleeping Beauty fell into her enchanted sleep, she woke up in another world? That's what happened to Liesel. But which is the real world? The castle, or the jail cell? This one's almost complete. You should be getting it this August. :)

Snippet: Liesel turned away from the now blank wall. She sniffed, her nose stuffy from crying. Her mother had always told her never to despair. This, like everything else, was in God’s hands. And Will…
     She was the bait in a trap—she could sense that—and Will loved her so much that he would give himself up to save her, even knowing that it could be his demise. It was one of the many reasons she loved him so. But to give in to whatever demands were being made could mean devastation for Hanover. Would he choose her or his kingdom? She couldn’t ask him to betray his people to save her.
     Liesel wiped the tears from her face with equally dirty fingers. How had they come to be so filthy? Last she could remember, she had been at home, in her own gabled bedroom in Hanover village. As the betrothed of the prince, she had more in the way of a security system than previously, but the cunning of criminals was never to be underestimated. She had to have been kidnapped; there was nothing else for it. And she didn’t suppose it mattered just how they had managed it. What mattered was that she was being held captive.
This is quite the trip down memory lane. I've come a long, long way since Bambi's Gonna Go To Faline. Childhood to adulthood. So much changes. It's sometimes hard to let go of the carefree atmosphere of childhood and accept the trials of adulthood, but I have a feeling that, in spite of the difficulties, it's going to be worth it.