Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

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Guest Post at Brianna Merritt’s Blog

March 25, 2017

Brianna Merritt invited me to guest post on her blog today. I wrote on how having a “thick skin” isn’t the most important thing when it comes to sharing our creative work:

What if, in spite of all my logical mental preparation, I can’t handle negative reviews? What if I’m a pathetically oversensitive snowflake after all, and bad feedback breaks me??

 Formerly so excited about debuting a story, I began to have second thoughts…not about the value of the story or my decisions in revising it, but about my ability to put such a raw piece of my heart in front of the world and open myself to inevitable criticism.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized something.

Read the rest here.

Also, Laura A. Grace interviewed me on her blog yesterday to celebrate the release of my short story, Threadbare. Check it out!

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I Want to Be a Persons-Pleaser

November 4, 2016

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Something imperceptible shifted in me in the last couple of months.

The first time it felt like a fluke – I was having a good day, apparently, nothing special.

The second time it barely caught my notice – a passionate moment of boldness, probably too bold, but whatever.

The third time it took me by surprise, as I finally realized…

That girl was gone.

That girl who bears within herself the blame for every negative emotion. That girl who internalizes conflict until it cramps her stomach and leaves her no appetite. That girl who feels like she’s been punched at a simple negative statement from a friend.

That girl who thinks it’s all about her.

Who thinks, surely, everyone else’s problems are her fault. Who thinks it’s her responsibility to fix the anger of another heart. Who assumes, when her calmness is met with grumpiness, that her very presence is the impetus.

Who believes in her heart of hearts that if she brings anything other than peace and happiness to any situation, she is worthless, a negative influence that deserves to be cast aside.

That girl lived in my heart despite all my logic growling at her to leave.

I don’t miss her one bit.

Because now I can see clearly – it isn’t about me. It’s almost never about me.  Every heart has so many tethers and roots and tendrils stretching in every direction…what arrogance to believe that every disturbance in another person comes from my tiny corner in their soul!

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Pride’s twin sister is worthlessness. Each one places you higher or lower than God intends you to be.

That girl I knew would spiral into grief and anxiety for hours if a friend seemed in the least bit unhappy with her – desperate to make it right, desperate to restore the balance.

And suddenly I…don’t.  I listen. I exhort. I offer corrections. I offer prayer. Because it isn’t about me – it’s about them and helping them in their needs, because there are tethers and tendrils pulling on them that I don’t even know about.

For so long I’ve hated being a people pleaser by nature.

And suddenly I find I’m not one.

Maybe it’s God’s direct intervention, the influence of friends, or the slow march of maturity. Maybe I’ve been riding a hormonal roller coaster, sent down the track by pregnancy and motherhood.  Maybe something broke in me long ago and it’s finally fixing.

But whatever the cause, I’m done with it!

I want to be a Persons-pleaser…pleasing the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

As long as I am obeying the Father, emulating the Son, and listening to the Spirit’s leading, the tumult of others’ emotions cannot rule me.  I can trust Him to order and guide all my relationships, and if someone has a problem with me for petty reasons and rejects me? – that’s only because He willed it, and He still loves me and is better than any earthly friend.

And for those times when it is about me, and I have hurt someone, He can give me the humility to apologize and make it right – without devolving into self-hatred and miserable anxiety.

My heart, soul, and mind are forgiven, loved, and claimed as precious by the Maker of all things.

I’m so thankful that my emotions finally got the memo! 😉

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

– Zephaniah 3:17

Have you ever suffered from being a people-pleaser or social anxieties? When? What helped you overcome it? Are you dealing with that right now? Share your story in the comments. ❤️

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On Living in a Box

September 6, 2016

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Sometimes my life feels like a long saga of making proclamations to myself…

I would never do that.

Nah, that’s not really for me.

That’s not my thing.

Or conversely:

This is what I am made for.

This is my thing, my purpose.

This is who I am.

…And then God bringing me around later and showing me, “Surprise!  Now this is your thing.”  “Tell you what – now I’m going to have you do that.”  “Guess what?  This is for you.”

As a silly example of what I mean…

When I was a kid, I once proclaimed that I’d never feed my kids sandwiches.  We had PB&J most days for lunch and I eventually decided sandwiches were boring.

And now I have an entire Instagram account dedicated to sharing my sandwich inspirations and all the sandwiches I enjoy making, because making sandwiches is one of my favorite hobbies.  (And my kids don’t really appreciate the fancy sandwiches yet, so guess what? Most of the time they have PB&J. 😉 )

I also maintained for years that “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations,” (as said J.R.R. Tolkien) and that I generally eschew symbolism in my stories.

Lo and behold, the most recent story God gave me to write started as straight allegory, and has evolved into a more varied but still deeply symbolic fantasy story.  And I love it with a great passion.

Surprise!

These kinds of things keep me humble…or they should. 😉

Perhaps more startling and painful is when God shows me, “No, that isn’t what you were made for.  No, that’s not actually your purpose.  No, that is not who you are.”

I like to have a very solid perception of myself.  Who I am.  What I am.  Where I’m going.  What I’m made for.  I like to do the things I’ve always done and be the person I’ve always been: solid, steady, reliable.  I like to know why I’m here and then stalwartly fulfill that purpose.

But who I am needs to grow.  And in my finite human perspective, “why I’m here” is always my own subjective idea.

As much as I loftily think I understand God’s purpose for me, His ways are not my ways.  He is in charge of my life and how He uses it.  Who am I to even dream that I would fully understand who He made me to be and why?

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God is in the business of showing me, again and again, that “who I am” is a lot more fluid – and a whole lot bigger – than I think it is.

“Who I am” isn’t habits or preferences or projects or talents.  “Who I am” is broader than any of the things I use to define myself.  How can my identity be anything but vast and broad, when I am created in the image of an endless and infinite God, a new creature being remade into a picture of His all-powerful Son?

I pride myself on being someone who thinks outside the box to some extent.  Yet here I sit, chalking out little boxes for my identity and then planting myself in them and making myself at home.

And then freaking out when God spray-hoses away a side or two of the box I was so comfortable in.

Hopes, dreams, ambitions, talents, abilities, callings, habits – I’m prone to believe that who I am comes from those things, the things that I “am.”

But what a fragile and shaky identity that is!

Any one of those things God could remove in a moment.  He is always changing me and growing me.  Erasing my boxes.  What I think defines me one decade may seem small and silly to me the next.  Worse, I may remain stubbornly planted in a box when I am far too big to fit inside anymore, like a baby bird trying to squeeze itself tight inside the broken eggshell…when in reality, it’s big enough to fly.

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I believe we each have a unique identity.  I personally dislike the reductionist mentality of only ever saying, “I’m a sinner saved by grace – that’s all I am,” to explain who we are, because clearly each sinner saved by grace is an individual loved and called by the Lord, hands and feet and noses and toes in the body of Christ.  We are each created and redeemed for a purpose, and it’s not unspiritual to believe that we have an identity of our own.  We are one in Christ, and our identity is in Him – but we are not a hive mind.

Yet I cannot allow “who I am” to rest on who I think I am.  I am being sanctified into Christ’s image.  I’m a work in progress!  Maybe I think I’m a quick piece of flash fiction allegory, but I’m really a long, symbolic, high fantasy paranormal romance short-story/novella thing – who knows? 😉

That story I’m writing is still in progress.  I know how it ends, and I know how it began, but I still have no idea what’s in the middle!  My own life is not too different.

Unlike God, I’m not unchangeable.  And praise Him for that! – I am tiny, blind, flawed, sinful.

If I’m going to fly to unknowns where God wants me to fly – if I’m going to grow to new heights that God wills me to grow – then I have to stop telling myself that my limits end at the four corners of some tiny box that I’ve used to define myself.

Why be satisfied with a basic, simple explanation of what I’m made for, when He made me for Himself – for absolute infinity?

Not only is He vast, but He is constant, un-altering, and trustworthy.  In this world, He is the only thing we can rely on to define our souls.  Looking to anything less than Him to be our all-in-all is locking ourselves in a cage.

I am a child of an infinite, all-powerful God, an ever-growing work-in-progress by His grace.  I should never be content to live inside a box.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. – 1 John 3:1-3 (emphasis mine)

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Geeking Out Over Noblebright

August 17, 2016

Last night I discovered the term “noblebright.” I’m still geeking out about it. *happy squeak* 😀

It describes so much of what I write, and the tone of almost all my favorite stories.  Finding this term is like finding a word to describe a mood I have seen and loved all my life, but not had a way to describe.  It makes me so happy.

The term “noblebright” was created as a reaction to the negative term “grimdark,” which generally describes a setting that is dystopian, amoral, pessimistic, and/or violent – think Game of Thrones, or possibly Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.  (The last few books of Harry Potter might also be described as “grimdark” in tone, although overall I don’t believe the series could be called grimdark.)

This Wiki page describes the differences between grimdark and noblebright:

In a grim world, no matter what you do, an individual can’t secure more than an individual victory, if even that, because the rest of the world is too big/scared/powerless/selfish to act upon his impulse. A noble world is one where the action of a single hero can change the world, and a single big villain can f*** it all up : there are important people, who are so either by birth, rank or sheer willpower, and every single one of these people matter.
Now, a bright world is one full of opportunity, of wondrous sights to behold. It doesn’t mean that it has to be [My Little Pony], it can be dangerous, but your first instinct when looking at a new location should be awe and wonder: people may adventure to save the world, but they leave town with a smile upon their face, eager to see what comes next. The shadow of Risk is largely erased by the glint of Adventure. … A dark world is one where life sucks, and usually not long: whether it be because of demon overlords… or even the lack of water, everyone in this story may die, and they die for good.”

Art by Jane-Aspen

(There are also hybrids like nobledark – heroic heroes fighting evil in a very dark world – and grimbright – which I guess would be the ability to secure only individual victories in a world of wonder and adventure?…weird combo.  But I’m just sticking to the two main terms here.)

There is a basic worldview difference between these kinds of stories.

There are the stories where there is no hope, no meaning, and no lasting joy to human existence, where everything is sad and pessimistic – versus the stories where lives are meaningful because every individual makes a difference, good triumphs against evil in both small and great ways, there is beauty in the world, and there is real hope of victory.

Which of these is truer to my own worldview as a Christian?  The answer is obvious.

Art by Sandara

Now.  I believe there is truth to grimdark stories as well.  The world is fallen, cruel, full of atrocities and sometimes unspeakable evils.  Sometimes we need to look that in the face.  Sometimes we need grimdark stories.  They show us truth about this passing life.  We need to confront not just the evil in the world but the evil in ourselves.  We do live in a universe where “good people” do bad things, where every person has a dark side (except Christ).

But that’s not where my worldview ends.  When I look at the universe I see a noblebright place. I see true beauty.  I see right and wrong.  I see God working through even the worst circumstances to bring about ultimate glory for Himself and joy for His people.

So it makes sense that all the books and movies I love best fall under the “noblebright” category in some fashion.

Art from a video game: Lord of the Rings Conquest

Noblebright stories include: The Lord of the Rings [edit: one could argue this one is more nobledark], The Chronicles of Narnia, Firefly, some Marvel movies, and most 0f Star Trek.  There may be horrible villains, and dark parts of the tales, but a sense of wonder, morality, and nobility courses through these stories.  Beauty is real.  Life might be full of despair and destruction but that is not the end of the story.  The heroes might be flawed, but they are ultimately fighting for the good, and good will ultimately win.

I never knew there was a word for it.  I knew it was there.  I knew this undercurrent of hope, light, and beauty ran through all the stories I love the most.  It was part of my goals as an author to create worlds like this, running deep with joy, beauty, and love.  But I didn’t know it had a name.  And now I do!

I love noblebright.

Noblebright stories forever!!! 😀

Do you like stories that are darker or lighter in tone?  Which kind of truth impacts you more?  What are some awesome examples of noblebright stories you’ve seen or read (because I want to know more!!)?

Art by Sandara

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Sunshine Blogger Challenge – 11 Questions Answered!

July 19, 2016

I was tagged for this fun challenge by Gracie Mae DeLunac!  The idea is that you answer the 11 questions the previous blogger asked, and then “tag” 11 other bloggers and write them eleven new questions to answer.

I know not everyone enjoys (or likes to pass along) these challenges, so I won’t tag anybody specific here. But if you take a fancy to my questions at the end, consider yourself tagged! 😀 Answer the questions on your blog, then link back here in the comments so I can see your answers. 🙂

Here are Gracie’s questions, answered by me!

1. What is your favorite movie/tv show quote? What is it from? Why is it your favorite?

That’s a tough question!!  There are so many good movie quotes.  I think these few tie for my favorite…

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I love this quote from the captain deeply, because it reminds me of a much deeper and more beautiful truth: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” – Jesus, Matthew 25:40

And my second favorite:

Every human soul has significance.  None of us are unimportant.

And my other favorite:

This one I love because it reminds us that what goes on inside our heads is immensely powerful.  It shapes us!  (This is especially true for writers.  And for reading.)  Just because something is imaginary doesn’t mean it won’t impact us in a real way, perhaps for the rest of our lives.

2. What do you like to think about most when plotting (characters, plotline, plot twists, villainous acts, etc.)?

I think about characters, plot twists, and intense moments the most.  The parts I’m most looking forward to writing, and the characters’ motivations, and what drives them toward each point of the story.

3. What is your preference of “apocalyptic” groups: zombies, aliens, or mutants?

Mutants all the way!!…if we’re talking X-men type mutants, that is.

4.  What kind of food do you eat to feel decent enough to write?

I’m a little confused by this question, as I don’t really consider food a part of my writing prep at all, and I usually feel decent enough to write as long as I’m not having a bad day or something.  For writing snacks, that totally depends on the day. Sometimes I just want a glass of water. Sometimes I want a big plate of healthy snacks like string cheese, applesauce, wheat crackers, carrots and hummus.  Sometimes I want a mug brownie with a dollop of ice cream. 😀  And no, the brownie and ice cream probably don’t help me feel decent, but my mouth is fond of it…… 😉

5. Do you bring your own personal views (especially political and religious) into your tales?

I think it’s impossible not to do this!  What we write flows out of our hearts; no matter how hard we try, our beliefs will show up in our writing in some way.  Some of my stories portray my faith more overtly, with openly Christian characters and religious themes.  In others, it shows up more quietly and symbolically.  My current WIP probably has the least religious content of any I’ve written…I’ve been kind of surprised at that!

6. Would you say you “commune” better with nature when gardening [hands on], lounging outside [kinda near], or viewing it from inside your place [far away]?

Can I say moving outside? 😀 I’m weird about nature.  I am more of an indoors person.  And definitely not hands on so much!  But I don’t find outside a very relaxing place to be.  I consider it an active place to be, for the most part – I’d much rather be walking, hiking, dancing, biking, etc. than lounging!  I think I subconsciously feel like if I stay still too long, the bugs will get on me more easily… Hahahaha.

7. What is the strangest/rudest thing you have ever heard your written characters say?

Well, my villain in my current WIP used a swear word in the latest chapter…..this is totally a first for me and I’m not sure what I think of this. O.o  I’ve never had a character who swore before! But this is definitely what he would say….so it fits him as a character 100%.  I haven’t decided yet whether to censor him. 😉

8. Paper or plastic or re-usable?

I love my re-usable bags, made by the owner of this Etsy store, Jiggety Pig! If I don’t have those with me, I prefer plastic, because…….well, to be honest, they make good sacks to tie stinky diapers in when you’re on the go. 😉  And I’m never sure what to do with a paper bag after I’m done with it. Throw it away?? They’re so sturdy and “nice” compared to plastic bags that it feels like a waste to just toss it!

Some of Jiggety Pig’s bags, because I know the maker, and the bags are awesome:

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9. What movie/book/show would you say has made the most impression on you? When? Why/how?

There are so many…  I’m going to go with my gut on this one and say Lord of the Rings. *happy sigh*  I was obsessed with LotR throughout most of my teens.  I lived and breathed Middle-Earth everything.  And while I was a little bit unbalanced in my obsessions at the time, 😉 I still deeply love Tolkien’s world, because there is so much love, beauty, and truth in it.  The beauty of sacrifice, the love of friendship and loyalty, and the truth of light versus darkness and nobility and courage in the face of certain death.

10. What is your favorite color?

Now that’s an easy question.  Purple!!!

As a teen I painted my side of my bedroom in my favorite shade of lavender.  I miss having that beautiful purple writing corner… Someday, someday, I hope to have a purple writing nook again. 😀

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11. If you were able to publish one of your tales and go somewhere to showcase it (author tour, opening night for the movie, etc.), where would you go?  Why?

I confess I haven’t thought about this much!  I have considered a bunch of plans for future release parties for my main story-love, The Kraesinia Trilogy…foods I would serve, excerpts to read, costumes to potentially make, gifts I’d give away.  It really depends on the book, I suppose!  Going off my current WIP, Disillusioning, it would be awesome to do a semi-local author tour in some nearby states…sign books in Barnes & Noble and meet readers face-to-face. That would be fun. 🙂

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Thanks for the fun questions, Gracie! 🙂

Here are my 11 questions to anyone who’d like to pass this challenge onward…

1. If you could have any magical/supernatural ability, what would you choose?

2. What’s one of your happiest childhood memories?

3. What is your favorite writing spot / workspace like? Why do you like to work there best?

4. What ministry or calling is closest to your heart?  What’s something you dream of doing for that cause someday?

5. Chocolatey desserts or fruity desserts??

6. What was your favorite book as a small child?

7. What’s something you used to be afraid of but aren’t scared of (or not as scared!) anymore?

8. What’s your favorite kind of outfit to wear?

9. What Bible verse has God used most powerfully in your life recently?  How?

10. How do you feel about rollercoasters? Love ’em, hate ’em?

11. Do you like sad endings or movies/books that make you cry?  Why or why not?

Let me know if you decide to take on the challenge and send me a link to your post! I’d love to learn more about you. 🙂

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EDIT: Author Yaasha Moriah answered my questions, and she had some beautiful answers! Check out her post here: http://www.yaashamoriah.com/home/sunshine-blogger-challenge-11-questions-answered