Friday, December 30, 2016

Creating an Informal Pitch: What to Say When Someone Wants to Know About Your Book

A few months back, a dear blogging friend of mine wrote a mostly sarcastic post about answering the dreaded question: “What’s your book about?” It’s quite funny in its own right and does address the terrified feelings that the question can create. You can read the post here.

Creating Informal Pitch Part 1

In the process of reading said post, I was inspired to 1) Create informal pitches for a couple of my projects, and 2) blog about the process.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Psalms: Chapters 60 & 62

Sunday Psalms Chap. 60 & 62

Psalm 60:11-12 "Give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies."

It's so easy to put our faith in ourselves or in our families or our countries instead of in God. It's not necessarily a bad thing to trust people. Trust is part of relationships, and I believe we're called to form relationships.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Why I Prefer Mr. Knightley to Mr. Darcy

Today I have a repost for you of an article I really enjoyed writing back in 2014. Thus, I present to you, Why I Prefer Mr. Knightley to Mr. Darcy.

Millions of women adore Jane Austen’s novels, in particular Pride and Prejudice. I am among them, though I’ve only read what must have been an abridged version of the novel. I love the movies, though. And I love Emma, too, though, again, I haven’t read the book. So, I’m basically on even terms for discussing these stories’ respective gentlemen, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley. If any guys are reading this, don’t freak out. If you’ve ever despaired of being compared to the perfect Mr. Darcy, I’m going to show you a glimpse of the female mind on the subject.

Why I Prefer Mr. Knightley

For most Austenites, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is considered the epitome of manhood. He is the ideal man for many women. And I love Darcy, I really do. But I think there is another Austen hero who is an even better candidate for the title.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Reading Through My Bookshelf: November's Reads

I'm hoping that, with school out, December will let me read more books. But, for now, I give you my reads of November.

Reading Through My Bookshelf November

1. In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Filbrick 4/5 – I read this book for my U.S. History class, and it was really quite interesting. The book tells the story of the sinking of the whaleship Essex by a whale; that story was the real-life inspiration for Moby Dick. It's a fascinating, smooth read, but the accounts of cannibalism were almost more disturbing than I could handle. Read with caution.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sunday Psalms: Chapters 55, 57 & 59

Sunday Psalms Chap 55, 57, & 59

Psalm 55:22 "Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall."

I love finding parallels between the Old and New Testaments. There are so many of them, and, for me, they bring this whole epic story into focus.

Friday, December 2, 2016

I Don't Want Your Happy Ending

Sometimes I feel like I'm being left behind, with friends entering serious relationships, getting engaged, and even having kids. Yet here I am, never having been on even a single date.

It's painful.

But I've realized something recently. If I truly believe that God has a purpose for my life, then I shouldn't be wishing for what someone else has. In addition, I don't really want what God has for my friends. I want what He has for me.

I Don't Want Your Happy Ending


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Happenings of the Month: November 2016

Whew, what a month! I wonder if yours was as full as mine!

Happenings of the Month Nov 2016

Entertainment of the Month:

  • Movies/TV:

I don't watch many shows on NBC, but one of their newest, Timeless, is proving to be an exception. The show follows the exploits of historian Lucy, Delta Force soldier Wyatt, and programmer Rufus as they travel through time, fighting to save history from the destructive efforts of Garcia Flynn. As they work, though, they find that each choice they make in the past has consequences in the future, and the mysterious Written House may be a bigger problem than any of them realize. Though I am slightly worried about the potential longevity of the program, I am really enjoying it so far.

Friday, November 25, 2016

On NanoWriMo, Pressure, Pacing, and Uniqueness

Can I share a rather unpopular opinion?

I don't like NaNoWriMo.

Shocker, I know. My Twitter feed has been full of it all month. Many of the blogs I follow make much of it. I'm surrounded by NaNo excitement. But I don't like it.

I get nervous, frankly, to consider writing 50,000 words in a single month, a month that happens to be a very busy time of the year for me. I have other things to focus on. And my one pseudo-attempt at NaNo resulted in a whole lot of stress and major burnout. I prefer not to repeat it.

On NaNo

That being said, I know many people really enjoy NaNo and get a lot out of it. That's great for them. I would never want to say that someone else's writing success is a bad thing. I just get tired of hearing only one opinion. All I hear is: "You've gotta do NaNo." or "It's the best thing ever." But I never hear the opposite. I never hear that it's okay not to like NaNo. I never see my own opinion reflected back at me. So I decided to do it myself.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday Psalms: Chapters 51 & 53

Sunday Psalms Chap 51 & 53

Psalm 51:16-17 "You do not delight in sacrifices, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise."

God doesn't just want the outer trappings of my life. He doesn't want me to lip sync through life, imitating other Christians but withholding my heart.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Why I Keep a Prayer Journal

I like having things in writing. They're more solid that way, more tangible. Now, I know that's not true for every person. Some prefer other mediums for keeping certain thoughts. I totally understand that. Video, in particular, has an important place in my heart. But writing is my first love.

Why I Keep Prayer Journal

I've taken notes in church for years, since I was old enough to understand what the pastor was saying. It helps me stay focused and lets me look back on things I've learned. I've also kept a personal journal for a very long time. I'm not always consistent with it, but it is an invaluable part of my life.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Reading Through My Bookshelf: October's Reads

I hope that, on this Veterans' Day, we can remember the sacrifice that so many make and have made to defend our country and realize that this country is built on diversity and unity. This week, our election process occurred, as it does every four years, and now it's time to move forward. I pray that we can reach out to those who think differently from us and let God heal our wounds.

Moving on to today's post, last month I read six books and listened to an audiobook (one of my new favorite things to do). It's not a lot, but they kept me entertained amidst the never-ending slew of schoolwork.

Reading Through My Bookshelf October

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sunday Psalms: Chapters 46. 48, & 50

Sunday Psalms Chap 46, 48, 50

Psalm 46:1-3 "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."

It seems like I'm hearing about an ever-increasing number of natural disasters around the world. Most terrifying, they seem to be occurring more and more frequently in the United States. Earthquakes, flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis. They reap devastation and create fear wherever they go.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Star Wars: Lessons of the Prequels

I've always been frustrated by the vehement hate that people lay upon Star Wars Episodes I-III, sometimes called the prequels. People have deeply polarizing opinions about those three movies that I've never heard expressed about the original trilogy, Episodes IV-VI. As someone who enjoys all six (and now seven, with The Force Awakens) episodes, as well as the saga as a whole, I think that's a little unfair.

Star Wars Lessons of Prequels

Of course, everyone can have an opinion about a movie. We each enjoy (or don't enjoy) things a little differently. I have plenty of unpopular opinions about some stories; why should I be surprised that I have a different opinion on the Star Wars prequels? Regardless, I recently watched Episodes I, II, and III, and I found myself distinctly struck by some deep lessons in the arc.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Writing Multiple Points of View

When I did the One Year Adventure Novel in high school, one of the rules was that my novel must be written in first-person, with one perspective. At first, that felt incredibly limiting. I had never written first-person before; I wasn't sure I would like it. However, as the wonderful Mr. S explained, limits help boost creativity. First-person would help us young writers focus more on the story.

Fast forward, and now I've written two other main stories in first-person: Through Time, my Beauty and the Beast novella, and Truth in Space, my journal-entry project that I posted here a while back. I also find myself favoring it for flash fiction.There's something really satisfying about writing in first-person.

Writing Multiple POV

Nonetheless, not all stories are meant to have only one viewpoint.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Happenings of the Month: October 2016

Happenings of the Month Oct 2016

Entertainment of the Month:

  • Movies/TV

So, last month I said I couldn't think of anything I'd watched; recently, I realized that I did actually watch something. In fact, October Baby was such a wonderful movie that I must make up for my oversight this month. Besides, it just fits, this being October and all. October Baby is a movie I first saw about three years ago and really enjoyed. Last month I saw it again; I had forgotten just how impactful it is. This movie focuses on a young woman named Hannah (Rachel Hendrix), who has dealt with significant health challenges all her life but doesn't know why. After she collapses during a college play, she learns that she is not only adopted but also the survivor of an abortion attempt. This news throws her world into chaos, and she sets out on an impulsive road trip with her best friend, Jason (Jason Burkey), and several other college students. The movie is gorgeous – beautiful music, framing, and acting – and makes itself deeply felt, telling a story of forgiveness, acceptance, and hope that I know I will return to again.

  • Books

The Dark Talent is the fifth and most recent release of Brandon Sanderson's series Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians. This series… Seriously, I'm not even sure how to describe this series, and that is doubly-true for this book. I don't think I've ever encountered stories like this before, with a save-the-world adventure, a highly self-deprecating hero, a liberal dash of humor, and even a slice of writing advice. Yet these books are so much more than that, amazing and highly entertaining to read. Sometimes I try to imagine writing them, and that just boggles my mind. The series gets progressively darker throughout, coming to a pinnacle in this book, yet it still feels appropriate for its younger audience. I highly recommend this series, but it's going to take me a while to fully wrap my head around it.

  • Music

"I Have This Hope" – Tenth Avenue North – This is a song off Tenth Avenue North's newest album, Followers, and, ya'll, I want this album so badly. It's beautiful and this song, in particular, speaks deeply to me, telling of the hope we have in Christ and setting it to a soaring, violin-led melody.

"Okay" – The Piano Guys – This song is just fun. And sometimes you just really need to hear that everything is going to be all right.

"Rage and Serenity" – Henry Jackman – There are a few soundtracks that I just really love, and the score from X-Men: First Class, is one of those. You can argue the merits of the movie, but this particular scene is one of the most poignant, in my personal opinion, and the song, though short, always catches at my heartstrings.

My Life This Month:

I feel so stretched out, unable to quite keep up with everything that's going on. Everything, of course, isn't even multiple things. It's one thing: school. Ugh, just thinking about it is giving me a headache. I've got a group project that's proving to be rather challenging; I have a paper that's due much sooner than I would like; everything's just colliding all at once. Must be midterms… Or getting there, anyway.

Part of it is a control issue. I feel the need to take on a lot with my group project because I'm not convinced anyone else will deal with it. I want to control my grades. I want to maintain my GPA. But my life isn't mine to control. I just thought about this recently, actually. Being organized is fine, but we are not in control of our own lives. We were never meant to be. God is the Author and Sustainer of our lives. Of my life. I've got to learn how to let Him run it. I find that particularly difficult to do with school, though. Yet that's the single biggest consumer of my time right now. (Should that place belong to my relationship with God, though? I realized that as I typed my sentence, and now I'm wondering what's happened…)

I've also gotten really off track with my devotions, and I can feel the effect. It's not a good one. I need that time in the morning with God, and I haven't been putting a priority on it. What is the point of my life if I'm shoving God out of it? I want my life to matter. I want Him to use me. But I keep putting my priorities on other things. I think I've gotten really off base, and I want to be on the right one again.

I did launch my YouTube channel this month! YouTube, as it turns out, is slightly more of a pain to navigate than I expected. Nonetheless, I did successfully post my intro video. You can check it out here

Other Web Happenings:

I Have This Hope Video Journal | Mike Donehey – In this video, the lead singer of Tenth Avenue North explains the story behind the song "I Have This Hope." I discovered this slew of video journals when I looked up the YouTube video of the song to share with you. They're really encouraging; I particularly enjoyed this one. And Mike is unexpectedly hilarious.

Respecting the Past: A Philosophy for Historical Fiction | One Year Adventure Novel – This link will take you to all three of the historical fiction posts written by the fabulous Rachel Garner. Each deals with a different aspect of approaching historical fiction, and, as an aspiring hist-fic author myself, I found them extremely helpful.

Pros and Cons of Signing with a Small Press | Tessa Emily Hall – Here author Tessa Emily Hall lays out some of the things to consider when you're looking at publishing with a small publishing house

How was October for you? Are you drowning in school? Read or watch anything interesting? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday Psalms: Chapters 42-43

Sunday Psalms Chap. 42-43

Psalm 42:11 "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God."

This is the chapter that begins with "As a deer pants for water."

Friday, October 21, 2016

That Moment When I Was Throwing a Temper Tantrum

A quick note that I posted my first video on my new YouTube channel about a week ago. You can find it here.

A couple months ago, I went through a really rough couple of days. I was miserable. The future looked dark. I was questioning every decision I had ever made.

And suddenly I realized that I was acting like a five-year-old.

Temper Tantrum

Friday, October 14, 2016

Reading Through My Bookshelf: September's Reads

Well, today was supposed to be the day on which I revealed the finalists for my Light and Dark Contest. Considering that I received exactly zero entries, however, that is rather difficult. I don't know what happened, ya'll. I was so looking forward to reading your stories, and you seemed excited about the contest. But I've got nothing. So, that's unfortunate. Nonetheless, I do have a post for you today. It's even a bookish post!

Reading Through My Bookshelf September

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sunday Psalms: Chapters 36, 37, and 39

Sunday Psalms Chap. 36, 37, & 39

Psalm 36:1-2 "An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin."

These verses nearly make me shiver with the danger they portend.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Being Purposeful in Your Singleness

A reminder that this is the last day to enter my Light and Dark Writing Contest. Email me at rachelleoneilwriter [at] gmail [dot] com with your entries.

I don’t know what culture you grew up in, but I know that, for many conservative Christian girls, singleness is hard. We tend to hold up marriage as the ultimate prize, and all our hopes and dreams thus rely on that. When a relationship doesn’t come right away, it can feel like our lives are in stasis. I’ve certainly felt that way before.

But it’s not true.

Sure, marriage is important and certainly desirable for me, but that doesn’t mean that singleness has no purpose. I’ve been reading a lot of articles about being single lately, and I’m trying to train myself to think more purposefully about this time in my life.

Being Purposeful in Singleness

Friday, September 30, 2016

My Top Ten Favorite Posts to Date (And the Giveaway Winner!)

It has been a joy to celebrate my four-year anniversary with all of you! Part of that celebration was, of course, the giveaway that started at the beginning of the month. The winner is…


Congratulations! I've emailed you about the details of your win. Now on to today's post.

I have been blogging for four years. Which blows my mind a bit. And though I haven't been a steady, weekly blogger for those four years, I've amassed more posts than I would have expected. In looking back over my old posts, I decided to count down my top ten favorite posts for all of you.

Top 10 Favorite Posts

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Happenings of the Month: September 2016

Happenings of the Month Sep 2016

Entertainment of the Month:

  • Movies/TV

To be perfectly honest, I can't think of a single movie that I watched this month, beyond one that I watched for school but don't really want to talk about. I've been so busy that I've hardly watched anything, which is depressing. So I don't have much for you. I will tell you that I'm excited for Hacksaw Ridge, releasing November 4th.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Psalms: Chapters 32-34

Sunday Psalms Chap. 32-34

Psalm 32:3 "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long."

Hiding sin will destroy you from the inside out. By its very nature, sin craves darkness; Satan wants it to stay buried deep in your heart where no one can see and intervene. When we let God's Light in, though, the devil flees. He can't stand in the presence of the Truth; the Father of Lies has no place there.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Why You Should Change Up Your Writing Process: A Guest Post by Katie Grace

I'm very excited to welcome the lovely Katie Grace to The Ink Loft for the first time! She just celebrated her two-year blog anniversary, and I fondly remember helping her get connected way back then.

clip_image002Katie Grace is a writer, blogger, child of the King, enfp, spreader of smiles, and a firm believer of hope in this messy world. (isn't that a mouthful?) She has a bad habit of writing 20,000 words in one day, staying up until two in the morning, and eating a whole pizza in one sitting (as well as using too many parenthesis in her bio).

She blogs at A Writer's Faith, and tweets constantly on her Twitter account.

Before I start my post, a HUGE thanks to Rachelle for letting me guest post! (and patiently reminding me when I forgot that I was supposed to send it to her.) Happy blogging anniversary to one of my first online writing friends! <3

Katie's Guest Post

I've been writing for 15.625% of my life. (Look at me math.) I've written four books and am getting ready to write my fifth. Each time I write a book, it's a different adventure. Obstacles to overcome, writer's block at different moments, and with each book I like to switch up my writing process.

Friday, September 16, 2016

I Have An Announcement

Hey, everyone. Well, I had intended to give you a video post today. Unfortunately, I've been having some technical difficulties and won't be able to do that. The video discussed 9/11 and an announcement I have. Unfortunately, without it, I'm only going to get to the announcement.

However, I am very excited about said announcement!

I'm starting a Youtube channel.

Yep. I'm going to be starting a Youtube channel for book reviews. I will occasionally link to the videos here on The Ink Loft, but not always. The channel will be its own project, connected, in some ways, to this blog, but separate.

For now, I'm planning to post a review once a month, and I'm intending to have it up and running by the beginning of October. I'll let you know when it's active. I'm very excited about this new endeavor, and I hope all of you will be, as well!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sunday Psalms: Chapters 28 & 30

Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and I'd just to take a moment to remember the tragedy and its victims, to say that I am praying for those affected, and to remind us that God is still God. September 11, 2001 was one of the worst days in American history, in which thousands of people died and our country was irrevocably changed. I'll be talking more about 9/11 on Friday, but I think it's important that we remember the tragedy and the victims on this anniversary.

The Psalms are, in my mind, particularly applicable to a day like this, because they remind us that, even in tragedy, our God is faithful. He's still present. He's still working. And we can trust in that.

Sunday Psalms Chap. 28 & 30

Psalm 28:1 “To You I call, O Lord my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if You remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.”

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Way Life Changes: A Guest Post by Olivia Flewelling

I am very pleased to present for you all the first of two guest posts that you'll be receiving this month. The idea with each post was to hear from a blogger 1) whom I am friends with, and 2) whose blog came after mine. Here is the first!

Liv's Guest Post on Change

Change only ever came to me in an eyedropper. Little by little, the circumstances I feared or hoped for have eked into my life. Or change has not come at all.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Reading Through My Bookshelf: August's Reads

I've started a new project, in which I've decided to read all the books on my shelves (and on my new Kindle), with a few exceptions (such as my history timelines book). I don't usually buy fiction unless I've read it before (again, with a few exceptions, like Lynn Austin books), but every now and then I buy a new one or get one as a gift. In addition, I do tend to buy nonfiction, often for history research but sometimes just because it peaks my interest, that goes on my shelves but doesn't get read. There's a lot of stuff there that I've meant to read without following through or haven't read in a long time. So, I want to read what I own.

Reading Through My Bookshelf August

I have a few library books to finish, and then I'm planning not to get any library books unless they're needed for a series.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Dear Younger Me: What I've Learned in Four Years of Blogging (+ Giveaway)

So, September 15th will mark the four-year anniversary of The Ink Loft! Can you believe that I’ve been blogging for four years? I was amazed when I discovered that a couple months ago. I haven’t always been a steady blogger, but I have cherished this blog and the wonderful people I have met because of it.

The fifteenth doesn’t actually fall on a Friday this month, but rather on a Thursday. Thus, I won’t have a post specifically on the anniversary date itself. However, I’m celebrating all month long! Instead of the usual two Friday posts, you will be getting one every Friday this month! They will include a couple of guest posts that I’m very excited about. This post marks the kick-off of the celebration and will include a giveaway (at the bottom). Since an anniversary is, by its very nature, a bit nostalgic, I decided to discuss some of the things I've learned over these past years in the form of a letter to my younger self.

Dear Younger Me

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Happenings of the Month: August 2016

Happenings of the Month Aug 2016

Entertainment of the Month:

  • Movies/TV

Ben-Hur. I am so excited about this movie, people. It came out the 19th, I saw it shortly thereafter, and it was fabulous.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Psalms: Chapters 24-25

Sunday Psalms Chap. 24-25

Psalm 24:3-4 “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.”

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Writing Contest: Light and Darkness

I've been quite fascinated recently by the use of light and darkness to enhance a story in filmmaking. Shadows and contrast can be used in so many different ways, and, the more I've thought about it, the more aware of it I've become. It is a concept well-suited to film, but I'm convinced that it can be used in prose, as well.

Light and Dark Writing Contest

Thus, I'm hosting a writing contest to explore that very thing!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Sunday Psalms: Chapters 21-23

Sunday Psalms Chap. 21-23

Psalm 21:1 “O Lord, the king rejoices in Your strength. How great is His joy in the victories You give!”

What a beautiful picture of relying on the Lord. The king rejoices in God’s strength, not his own. He recognizes that his successes come from the Lord, not from his own ability. I want to live like that, recognizing that everything good comes from the Father and that my efforts only lead to success because of Him.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Daily Quotes Challenge: Day 3

Today’s Tags:

David Sampson @ From a Jagged Inkwell, Laura M. @ Laura L. M., and Jake @ Reflecting the Mirror

Today’s Quote:

Quotes Challenge Day Three

I really enjoy C.S. Lewis' nonfiction works, and I'm slowly making my way through them. I've read The Screwtape Letters and most of The Problem of Pain (I really want to finish that one). Now I'm nearly finished with reading Mere Christianity for the first time. It's a fabulous book that I really encourage you to read.

You can find Day 1 of this challenge here and Day 2 here.

Have you read Mere Christianity or any of Lewis' other works? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Daily Quote Challenge: Day 2

Today’s tags:

Rachel Alison @ Silver Mess, Leinad @ An MK's Meandering Mind, and Cait @ Paper Fury

Today’s Quote:

Quotes Challenge Day 2

You can find Day 1 of this challenge here.

It's fascinating to read founding documents, and the Federalist Papers are particularly interesting. Have you ever read anything from them? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Daily Quote Challenge: Day 1

So, as some of you may know, I almost never do tags. There are plenty of fun ones floating around, but they don’t usually fit my vision for The Ink Loft. That being said, I was recently tagged by Emmarayne Redding over at Writing in Rivendell to do a Daily Quotes Challenge, and I do rather like the tone of this one. It's very bookish.

The challenge is simple:

1) Thank the person who tagged you (Always nice to know that someone’s thinking of me, Rayne!)

2) Tag Three New Bloggers Each Day

3) Post a New Quote for Three Consecutive Days

I’ll be modifying the last one a bit, posting Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of this week instead. As for the bloggers, I’ll tag:

Katie Grace @ A Writer’s Faith, Olivia Flewelling @ Olivia’s Scribbles, and Athelas Hale @ Red Lettering

Now for the quote:

Quotes Challenge Day 1

I've loved this quote ever since reading it for the first time, as it speaks to the dangers of apathy but also to the fruitlessness of worrying over the future. It contains so much truth in just a couple sentences.

What do you think of this quote? Have you ever read The Lord of the Rings? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Surviving (And Thriving) In College: The First Few Semesters

As you may have noticed, college is a very big part of my life right now. After having a few semesters under my belt, I can certainly say it’s an overwhelming experience. The difference between what I went into college expecting and what I know now is vast. So, since the Fall Semester is right around the corner, I’d like to share a bit of what I’ve learned in hopes that it will improve your first few semesters.

Note: I don’t live on campus, so I can’t speak to that particular aspect of college life.

Surviving College First Few Semesters

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday Psalms: Chapters 16, 19, and 20

Sunday Psalms Chap. 16, 19, & 20

Psalm 16:5 “Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup; You have made my lot secure.”

Worry really is entirely pointless when I consider Who holds my life in His hands. What good does worry possibly do? Does it change my circumstances? Does it make me a better person? No and no. I either trust God or I don’t.

Yet still I worry.

Perhaps worry is the touch of mortal earth on our immortal souls. Maybe it will never go away entirely while I’m here on Earth. But that doesn’t mean I need to cultivate it. God’s got everything well in hand. He sees every part of my life, the good and the bad, and He has a purpose in all of it. I can trust that, like David, God has “made my cup secure.”

Psalm 19:1-2 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”

I think that I often take for granted the living painting all around me. Just think of the variation in the sky: the pastels of morning, the vibrant blue of a summer afternoon, the deep hues of a sunset, the twinkling brilliance of a thousand stars. And yet, so often my gaze is stuck down, worrying about all my little troubles. I have only to look up to be awestruck, to be reminded of my God’s greatness.

Psalm 20:1, 6 “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you…Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He answers him from His holy heaven with the saving power of His right hand.”

The first half of this chapter feels like a beautiful benediction. And the thing about benedictions, in my understanding, is that they are blessings given in the knowledge of truth. So, this isn’t merely wishful thinking; this is a series of promises. God will answer you; He will send you help; He will give you the desires of your heart. The second half of the chapter affirms those blessings: the Lord saves and we can trust in Him.

What do these verses say to you? What have you been reading in Scripture lately? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Happenings of the Month: July 2016

You’d think that such a long month wouldn’t go by so fast! But then, I have had a lot going on this month. So it shouldn’t really surprise me that we’re in the last week of July.

Happenings of the Month July 2016

Entertainment of the Month:

  • Movies/TVStar Wars VII Theatrical Poster

The Force Awakens is, of course, the much-anticipated and worried-over seventh Star Wars episode. It came out in December of last year, which is when I first saw it. Last week, I acquired the DVD and had the great pleasure of watching it again. And I loved it! This film introduces us to many new characters – Rey, the young woman from Jakku with Force sensitivity; Finn, the former stormtrooper trying to establish a better life; Poe Dameron, the best pilot of the Resistance; Kylo Ren, the conflicted and temperamental Sith of the First Order; and Supreme Leader Snoke, the otherworldly potentate of the First Order, among others. The film also brought back the beloved characters of Han, Leia, Luke, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2, albeit in different roles than you might expect. On its own, the film tends to raise a lot of questions and tension; I’m quite distressed that I have to wait more than a year for the next episode. Yet it also, in my mind, captured the magic of Star Wars, blending the old and the new brilliantly, and setting up a new story to be told over the next few years. In the future, I’m excited to see more of the youth and vulnerability portrayed by the new characters and hoping to see the hinted-at nuances of the villains’ dynamics expounded into something more complex.

  • Books

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron is a story that I’ve wanted to read for a long time, and it did not disappoint. This book tells the story of Sera James, an art dealer in modern-day New York, as she searches for a WWII-era painting; simultaneously, it also follows the story of Adele Von Bron, the subject of that painting. The book travels through the depth of the Holocaust and into the incredible reaches of the human soul, telling a story of suffering, love, and the power of God to bring beauty from and in the midst of ashes. The book would probably be too heavy for younger readers, due to the subject matter, but I highly recommend it.

  • Music

I really love soundtracks, and I got the opportunity to buy some new ones this month. Thus, my music choices come mostly from those purchases.

“Rey’s Theme” – John Williams – This is the theme for the new main character of the Star Wars franchise, Rey. I love the whole The Force Awakens soundtrack, but this piece in particular is really fun. It actually puts me in mind of the Harry Potter soundtrack in a lot of ways.

“In Noctem” – Nicholas Hooper – Speaking of Harry Potter, this track comes from the Half-Blood Prince soundtrack. It’s so deeply tragic and stirring.

“Horse Racing” – Chinese Folk Song – I actually discovered this song through a game, Piano Tiles 2. After failing to play it all the way, I looked it up on Youtube, and it is a super cool song.

My Life This Month:

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had a pretty busy month. I’ve been working, mostly, though with slightly diminished hours. Regardless, I’m thankful to still have my job. As I look at upcoming school costs, I’m a little nervous about finances. However, I know God’s got everything under control. He’s done amazing things for me so far; I know that’s not going to stop now.

I am looking into alternate sources of income, though. I’d particularly like to start earning money in my field, writing. To do that, I’m looking into article submissions. I wrote an article about creativity that I’d like to submit; now it’s just a matter of picking a good magazine, tailoring the article to it, and editing. I’m excited about the possibility, but it’s far from easy. Still, that is something I would like to do on a regular basis – article submissions.

We had family visiting this month, which accounts for the rest of my busyness. It was good to see everyone, especially my aunt, whom I haven’t seen in three years.

I’m still struggling with the whole singleness thing. There are good days and bad. I’m come to some really interesting realizations recently, though, that I’ll probably be exploring in future blog posts. What they come down to, though, is that 1) I’m not ready for marriage and 2) part of my frustration is coming from arrogance on my part. It’s been an interesting journey, for certain, and one that I want to explore. I want to be satisfied in all circumstances, and, to do that, I need to seek God’s will on all the relationship craziness.

Other Web Happenings:

A Girl and Her Goggles: Tips For Writing Steampunk | One Year Adventure Novel – This article is informative for so much more than just steampunk; it addresses mixing genres in general

How To Make Connections and Boost Your Writing Career | Rachelle Rea Cobb – This post is full of helpful tips on making real connections in the writing world.

A Kindergarten Fight For Love | Studio C – Because everyone could use a little more Studio C in their lives, and seeing adults pretend to be children is absolutely hilarious

How was July for all of you? Busy or a little laidback? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Keeping Your Space Clean

This is a follow-up post to what I shared a couple weeks ago, Cleaning Your Space.

Keeping Your Space Clean

So, your space, whatever that is, has been cleaned. Yet the habits that made it a mess in the first place still exist. What can you do to keep the same cycle from repeating? Well, here are some tips:

  • Commit to It – As with anything, keeping your space clean requires commitment. You have to decide that you want to keep it clean and that you will keep it clean. It requires mental energy and discipline, but it’s worth it.
  • Adjust Your Organization Systems – Sometimes we get things perfectly organized and nice-looking, only then to have them not work. Maybe we can’t get at them easily or there’s not enough space for adding more. I have the feeling the latter will happen soon with my media shelf. When you find that your system isn’t working, it’s better to change it than to let it deteriorate around you. So, in my case, I may have to redo the way my shelves are organized. Instead of letting stuff pile-up, I’ll do the work and fix it.
  • Utilize the Two-Minute Rule – There are a few different interpretations of this, but the way I read it recently says this: if a task takes two minutes or less and you have two minutes, do the task right then. Sounds obvious, right? But think about it. If you folded the laundry as soon as you set it on your bed, it would be done. If you sorted and opened your mail when you brought it in, you wouldn’t have to deal with it later. Put your dishes in the dishwasher right away. Put a new bag in the trash can as soon as you empty it. Pick up your towel after you’re done. Imagine how much you could get done if you just took the time.

Courtesy of Pixabay

  • Make Your Bed – This applies specifically to bedrooms, of course, but it’s very important. It takes all of a minute to make the bed in the morning. And the effect a made bed has on your attitude is incredible. With a messy bed, it’s far easier to let the rest of your room deteriorate. When the covers are pulled up and nice-looking, you feel a bit guilty for making a mess. Guilt can be helpful.
  • Put New Things Away Immediately – Maybe you don’t have this problem, but I do. I am very guilty of buying stuff and then dumping it on the floor. I do eventually take whatever it is – whether that be books or clothes – out and use it, but that is not usually right away. Consequently, the mess just gets worse. However, when I put things in their new homes as soon as I get them, things stay clean. When you buy something, don’t dump it on the floor; find it a home.
  • Stay Positive – Don’t think of keeping your space clean as a drudgery. It’s a benefit. And don’t be too hard on yourself when you get a little behind. Just pick up and keep going. Life is full of ups and downs, and keeping a clean space is no different. Keep your chin up.

So, there you go! My tips on keeping your space clean. What about you? Do you use any of these techniques? Have any other ideas to help keep things clean? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday Psalms: Chapters 12-14

Sunday Psalms Chap 12-14

Psalm 12:6 “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.”

David bemoans the words of men in this passage, saying they reveal evil and flaunt disrespect for God. The Lord’s words, in contrast, are perfect and pure. We are called to be holy, as He is holy – set apart, different. We shouldn’t be cursing, as the world does; our words should lift others up, not malign them; our words shouldn’t be me-focused. I need God to guide my tongue.

Psalm 13:5-6 “But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.”

These verses are such an abrupt shift from the rest of the passage that I was rather surprised. David can seem more than a little melodramatic sometimes, going from the highest highs to the deepest depths. Yet he has such an anchor in the Lord, too. This passage reminds me a lot of many of my journal entries: spewing all the junk, depression, frustration, etc. and then affirming some truth about God. That’s when I know I’ve processed things.

Here, I love David’s choice of words. He’s choosing to trust, rejoice, and sing. In the middle of trials is the best time to praise God, turning my gaze off my problems and to the One it should never have left.

Psalm 14:1a, 5 “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’… There they [evildoers] are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous.”

Two interesting thoughts in this passage: 1) Only a fool would say there is no God, and 2) The community of God’s people is important. To the former, we actually have to work hard to delude ourselves into thinking that God doesn’t exist. We can be angry at Him, sure, but to actually ignore His existence is difficult. It’s the height of foolishness, really, to ignore all the things that point to His Presence. The second point is interesting to me. David’s been despairing about evildoers, and now he shifts gears, talking instead about the despair those evildoers feel when encountering the righteous. Evil cannot stand against God, and I can trust in that.

Right now, it feels like the world is going crazy. Maybe it is – being driven crazy by the grip of evil. But I know that the devil’s time will end. God will stand in judgement, and righteousness will prevail. I don’t know what’s going to happen here on Earth, but I know that it will end and that my story is being written by God Himself.

What do you think of these verses? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Cleaning Your Space: A Glimpse Into My Room Overhaul

So, as some of you may have heard, cleaning my room was one of my biggest planned projects for summer. Specifically, I intended it to occur between ending school and starting work. Well, I almost let myself push it too far, but I succeeded. A while back, I finished cleaning my room, and it is glorious to have space and a clean floor. You have to understand that I basically went two whole semesters with my room getting worse and worse. Finally cleaning it to completion was a major relief. Anyway, today I’d like to present the process I went through, some observations I had, and, hopefully, some tips for you as you go about creating order from chaos.

Cleaning Your Space

  • Go Through Your Clothes – This was such an important step, and, honestly, it was the longest step for me. Before I ever started on mybulldozer-1411276_640 room, I decided that I wanted to sort through all my clothing and keep only what actually contributes positively to my wardrobe. The initial result was a heaping pile of laundry on my floor that stayed there for a couple months. Not pretty. Seriously, I was beginning to think I needed a bulldozer… When I finished the process, though, I was really happy. Now my drawers are actually nice and neat, and I like the clothes in my closet.
  • What Is With All the Plastic Bags?! – I didn’t count how many I found, but it seemed like I discovered another plastic bag every way I turned. I have a bad habit of going shopping, taking some of my purchases out, and leaving the rest in their respective bags. Thus, over time, the bag population in my room goes way up. Hunting them all down and dealing with them was a good step.
  • paper-1392749_1280Papers. Everywhere – If you’re anything like me, then you’ve probably got dozens of random pieces of paper lying around. It’s almost like they multiply without my permission. Regardless, they needed to be dealt with if I was going to get my room clean. Some went into my school folders; others became scratch paper; still others went in the trash. Speaking of which…
  • THROW STUFF AWAY – Seriously, my room was full of junk. Papers, random ribbons, receipts, broken hair ties, and who knows what else. I kept a trash bag handy and filled it generously. I think that, sometimes, I just unconsciously don’t want to throw anything away. Then I get stuck with the mess I had. When I really started cleaning, though, I found that most of the stuff I threw away really did belong in the trash. It was just a matter of effort. Sometimes, even…
  • Some Mementos Just Have to Go – We’ve all collected mementos of many kinds throughout our lives: stuffed animals, pictures we or someone else has drawn, knick-knacks, notebooks, etc. When I keep all of my mementos, though, I find that I run out of space for them. Some things have deep significance and should, of course, be kept. Some stuffed animals fall into that category, while others should maybe be given to younger siblings or to charity. Knick-knacks vary in importance; in my case, I kept some and gave others to my younger siblings. Pictures become the hardest for me to manage, I think. I get a lot of pictures from kids I babysit or from siblings, and, while I treasure all of them, I just don’t have room. So, I keep the really nice ones and take digital pictures of the others. Then I’m free to throw them away. 20160606_160554
  • Put Up Those Pictures You’ve Wanted to Do Forever – I bought picture frames a long time ago at a secondhand store (great way to get them, by the way), and they’ve been sitting on my closet floor ever since. I love pictures, and I have hundreds on my computer. I’ve already broken one frame by leaving it out like that; I decided it was time to actually use the rest of them. So, I did. And I love having new pictures up.
  • Give Your Bags a Home – Over time, I’ve ended up with a lot of different bags: backpacks, satchels, and a whole variety of purses. When they just lie on my floor, they contribute big-time to the mess. Some I never use and can thus give away. For the ones I have uses for, however, I collected them and stuck them neatly in my closet. Decide what bags you need on a daily basis, and give those a more accessible home, but don’t leave everything out. This also applies to boxes and notebooks.
  • Hunt Down Hidden Food – Maybe I’m the only one who has this problem, but I always discover food in odd places when I clean. In bags, on the floor, and, occasionally, in drawers. Trust me, leaving food out is never a good idea. Hunt it down and get rid of it.
  • Repurpose Already-Used Space – I actually have a lot of storage space in my room (though, unfortunately, not as much as thbookshelf-413705_640at picture), but I don’t always use it well. Sometimes, all you need is to shuffle things around and open up new opportunities. In my case, I moved my CDs onto the same shelf as my movies, opening up a whole shelf for writing supplies. I had no place for those before, and now everything fits nicely. How are you using your space? Can you utilize it better?
  • Consider Getting a Desk or Storage Space – Of course, sometimes you just need more space. When you’ve done what you can with the space you have, you might look into getting a desk or some kind of cubbies/drawers. I’ve been looking at secondhand desks for a two-fold purpose: it would give me some storage space for writing supplies, and it would be a good space to do homework/writing. And I found one! It’s wonderfully large and provides more space for my writing supplies. Definitely worth it.

So, there, you go. That was cleaning my room. How does the process usually look for you? Let me know in the comments and join me in a couple weeks for tips on keeping your space clean.