Monday, February 18, 2019

Following God's Calling

This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately because I was recently very tempted to not. I was about ready to ditch it all—writing, music, politics, everything I've been working towards since before I graduated from high school—and go get a teaching degree and be a lonely, workaholic elementary school teacher with no bigger mission than my immediate students. I really was ready to do that, as miserable and terrified as I was about it. But I can't.

Since I was a kid, I always had an idea of what I wanted out of life. I don't think I was ever totally serious about the cheerleader or detective thing. Or even the making-movies-that-are-like-the-book thing. They were dreams, but dreams I knew I would never achieve. I'm never going to be Meg Murry or Jill Pole. (Me at twelve would have been a much better Meg than anything in last year's movie. Just sayin'.) And as much as I loved ballet, I knew I was never going to be a professional dancer.

But I always knew I was going to write books. I knew I was going to learn to play the violin. I long intended to teach music. If you look back at the comments in my "Why I'm Not Going to College" post, you can see that I had already considered the possibility of working at a library. (And wow, some of those comments. As if I'm an oppressed girl who isn't allowed to pursue higher education, or a stupid kid who doesn't realize that college has value. Not someone who's trying to be an entrepreneur and would prefer to spend her money on things that are actually applicable to her path in life.) Speaking of which, as I prayed about my post-graduate direction while in high school, one thing I knew for certain was that I was not going to college. I don't have anything against college in and of itself. I just knew it wasn't God's path for me. I've always known that I can't walk away from politics. It's too important to America, and it's too important to me personally. I know it's part of my wall. I knew where we were supposed to move, and as soon as we set foot in our current house, I knew it was the one.

My problem is, when things don't happen in the time that I expect them to, I start to doubt God's calling. I start to try to make other plans than the ones I made when I was seeking and listening to God. Plans that ditch the gifts God gave me and told me to use.

See, I never expected it to take so long to be financially successful as a writer. But I still had a lot to learn. I never expected it to take so long to build a decent sized music studio. But I'm incredibly grateful for the students I have now and the students I've had in the past and how they've taught me and pushed me to be a better teacher and musician. I didn't expect to have a job that severely limits my ability to be involved in politics by requiring quite a number of Saturday hours. But I've learned so much from working at the library in so many areas, including how to create a better book.

And because of that, I've been like Peter trying to walk on the water, taking my eyes off of Christ and sinking. Trying to ditch the gifts God has given me, the calling I know He's given me, in favor of the "easy" path.

Because it would be so much easier to just go get that teaching degree because I know I could make a living teaching elementary school. Even though I know I don't do well teaching classes and do much better one on one where I can individualize instruction to each child. Because it's hard to make a living with home businesses, never mind the fact that God has provided enough income for me to pay an agreed-upon rent to my parents while still being able to fund my writing and take piano lessons and save money for the future. And He's provided me with parents who support my entrepreneurial efforts and won't let me give them up. My mom told me not to talk about the college thing until I'd read Business Boutique. Because she doesn't want me to give it up.

The thing is, when I consider giving up writing, giving up music, giving up political involvement, I'm utterly miserable. Because I'm considering not using God's gifts. Not following the calling I've known He gave me since I was a child. And honestly, that's sin.

Not using the gifts God gives you is a sin.

God does everything for a reason. He gives us gifts for a reason. He gives us interests and passions for a reason. Because He intends us to use them for His glory, to further His Kingdom. And not doing those things He wants us to do, even if what we're doing instead is an inherently good thing, is wrong.

We're supposed to build our own part of the wall.

There are many parts of the wall...the church and standard church missions, government, education, entertainment, business, media, the family. Sometimes our parts of the wall intersect multiple spheres. But if we devote ourselves to a part of the wall God hasn't called us to, we aren't building our wall. We aren't being effective in the way God wants us to.

"There are no accidents. Our guide is Aslan; and he was there when the giant King caused the letters to be cut, and he knew already all things that would come of them; including this."
—Puddleglum, The Silver Chair

God doesn't make mistakes. All the gifts He gives us, all the interests He puts in us, all the doors He opens and all the doors He shuts. They aren't an accident. He knows why. He knows what's going to come of it. He knows how these things will serve His Kingdom.

The more I tried to find a plan other that what God is calling me to, the more miserable I was. Now that I'm working on figuring out that next step in my author career, now that I'm not willing to give up my music studio, my political involvement, I'm much more at peace. I know I'm where I'm supposed to be. It's not easy, not at all, but I know I'm trying, in my own fallen way, to follow God's calling.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Fawkes

I wasn't really sure if I could write this post. See, Fawkes is an amazing book. It really is. But I finished it in the middle of the night, the night before we put my beloved dog down. When I finished the book, I heard her crying and went to sit with her for a while.

Fawkes was amazing. It's a fabulous book. I loved the book. But it'll probably always be bittersweet because it'll remind me of having to say goodbye to Sophie.

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.
 
******************************************

I got this book for Christmas. I was excited to read it, but I made myself finish my library books first. I wish I'd finished them sooner, for multiple reasons.

The cover is gorgeous. I keep looking at it. Still haven't put it on the shelf, even though I made room for it. It's just so pretty, and actually says so much about the book.

It took me a little while to truly get into the book because you're thrust into this alternate fantasy version of early 17th century England with little explanation of how the world works. Which makes sense, since it's the only world the characters know. Basically, it took me a little while to get my bearings on the color power thing, which is an important element of the novel. Once I figured that out, it was great.

It's a very interesting take on the Gunpowder Plot and the plague. Rather than the bubonic plague, this plague turns people into stone. Thomas's left eye is stone from the beginning of the story, and he is desperate for color power because he believes that with it, he will be able to cure his plague. But when his father, Guy Fawkes, refuses to bring him his color mask so he can bond with a color, Thomas sets out for London to find him, and gets wrapped up in the Gunpowder Plot. But instead of it being a plot by Catholics to assassinate a Protestant king and blow up Parliament, it's a plot by Keepers to assassinate an Igniter king and blow up Parliament.

Essentially, in this book, it's all over the beliefs on White Light. White Light is where all color power originates. Igniters want to use White Light and command multiple colors—to the minds of the Keepers, making them power hungry. The Keepers don't talk to White Light, believing that it's wrong to use it, and you should keep to a single color. And the color power, well, once you've bonded with a color, using your color mask, you can speak to the color and get whatever is that color to do things. For instance, if your color is brown, you can use color speak to move dirt. But you have to be wearing your mask to do it. The Keepers are being hunted down and executed, the Igniters thinking they're responsible for the plague. Keepers believe Igniters are responsible and think that it can be stopped by putting a Keeper on the throne.

Aside from the fantasy elements, that Thomas exists in history as only a single birth record, and that Emma Arebor is entirely fictional, Nadine kept to the facts on the Gunpowder Plot. The conspirators were real, the plot and how they were executing it (minus color power) was based in reality, the anonymous tip was real, the ends of the conspirators were real. I'm just glad Thomas and Emma weren't actually real (besides the one birth record) so they had a chance of surviving. And this book inspired me to learn more about the real Gunpowder Plot.

What I really loved was Thomas's journey. He was raised strictly Keeper, and with his father in his ear, he kept being convinced that the Keeper way was right. Except then there was Emma. An Igniter with her own secrets. But someone who actually understood White Light for what it was. How no one commands White Light, you can only ask. And she doesn't say "Thomas, ignore what your father says. I'm right." She encourages him to look beyond everything he's ever heard about Keepers and Igniters and White Light and seek the truth. To find what's real for himself.

It's a very important journey, finding truth for one's self. Learning to do what's really right, whether or not it's what you've been told is right. You can't stand up for your beliefs if you don't know deep down inside for a surety that they are true. And when your father is a conspirator plotting mass murder, you probably need to question his motives and beliefs. :P

And I really just loved Thomas and Emma. They're both great characters and my time with them was too short. I love their friendship/relationship, how sweet and innocent it was. It was beautiful.

I love this book. It's the best of the year so far.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Random Stuff I Like

(because I'm still trying to kick a cold, and my brain is fried from a writing-related project I'm not ready to announce)

Cumulus Clouds
They're just beautiful. I always loved them as a kid, but I forgot for awhile. Then sometime last year (I think it was last year) I was looking out the window driving down the road, and remembered how much I love clouds. They're beautiful. So long as they're white and puffy and look like cotton. Or they're wispy and look like carded wool. Rain clouds...ugh. 

Blue Sky
I hate rain, so naturally I love blue sky. When it's clear and beautiful, or dotted with the beautiful clouds aforementioned, I just keep staring at it. Because it's amazing, and it means I can go outside. 

Trees
Trees are amazing. I love the woods. But mostly in the spring when everything's leafy and green and pretty. I love hiking in the woods on unpaved trails that make me feel like I'm in the middle of nowhere on an adventure. 

Open, Grassy Fields With No Civilization In Sight
I don't know that I've been in one often, if ever, but I like to imagine it. Just the beauty of being out in the middle of nowhere, enjoying God's creation without the taint of any man-made things to mar the view. If you can't tell, I love the outdoors. It's just too cold right now to enjoy it, and in the summer it's too hot, and when it's just right I'm too busy, and it's driving me crazy.

Spring
When everything's starting to grow and come back to life, and it starts getting warm so I can go outside again. It's awesome. And...okay, yeah, my birthday's in the spring too. 

The Smell of Fresh-Turned Dirt and Fresh-Cut Grass
It smells heavenly. Like childhood. I love driving home from work in the summer with the windows open (because my car doesn't have AC) and smelling that they cut the grass along the road. 

Log Cabins
Pioneers. 'Nuff said. 

Dresses
Again, pioneers. I was beyond excited when my grandma gave me a pioneer dress for my seventh birthday. I slept with it draped over my headboard. And dresses are so awesome and old fashioned. 

History
History's cool, people. You've got the American Revolution, and pioneers/westward expansion, and the Civil War, and sailing ships, and different cultures, and interesting events, and I just love history so much. If I had a time machine, I'm not sure when I'd check out the future because there's so much awesomeness in the past. 

Pastel Colors
They're so soft and pretty and spring-like. 

Books
Duh. My one spending vice is book buying. I'm not as bad as some people I know, but it's reeeeaaaally hard for me to go to this one particular Goodwill without buying a stack, and I just couldn't pass up Barnes & Noble's Ranger's Apprentice deal. But the thing is, I look for the deals and the used books, and so I'll buy twenty used books for the price of one new one. Books are the best. So many worlds to explore, so much to learn, so much amazingness. 

Genetics
Genetics is cool. I need to study it more, so I can understand things like half dominance. 

Music
Music is amazing. I love violin first, but I also love piano, and orchestra is AMAZING. I miss being in the orchestra. I love classical music, film score, praise music, Disney and other musicals, and those are my main favorite music genres. Life without music would be unbearably dull. 

Kids of All Ages
Kids say some of the funniest things. And honestly, I've inherited the teacher gene from my parents, so any time I'm around kids is an opportunity to teach and mentor them and invest in their lives. And I just love doing that. It's so worth it. 

Spinning and Weaving
Someday I'm going to get myself a spinning wheel and a floor loom. Someday, maybe when I'm old and gray, but I'm going to do it. 

Pottery
Pottery is so much fun. I loved pottery camp, especially using the pottery wheel. It was amazing. 

Drawing
I'm not good at painting, and I'm not very good with color, but I love drawing my favorite screen characters in grayscale. I just don't have the time for that anymore. 

Historic Houses and Buildings
I LOOOOOOOVE Mount Vernon. And it's just so amazing to walk into an old building and just feel the history. Like when we went to Independence Hall. It was unreal. Just feeling the significance of all that happened there. It's amazing. 

Animals
I love my dog, and I want a cat, and I've wanted chickens and a sheep since I was a little girl. Can I have a farm, please? 

My Family
I don't know what I'd do without my family. They've always been there for me, encouraged me to go where God leads, supported my dreams, not let me give up on my dreams when I want to give up, and they've helped make me who I am. They're the people who get me, who know the inside jokes ("hair in food is natural!"), and I really don't know where I'd be without them. 

God
And now I'm ending on a more serious note, because without God, I wouldn't have any of the other things that I love. God created it all. He created me. He saved me, because honestly, before I was nine, I was a really bratty person. God's there in my happy, carefree times, and He's with me in the hard times. God is most important, and even though I fail constantly, He still loves me and forgives me. And I love Him because He first loved me.

P.S. Today is the anniversary of getting my braces off, getting my violin, and it's my cousin's birthday. It's a cool day.