Monday, June 27, 2016

Happenings of the Month: June 2016

Whew, can you believe it? Another month has come and gone, and summer is speeding along. Here’s what’s happened this month.

Happenings of the Month June 2016

Entertainment of the Month:

  • TV/Movies

Wives and Daughters is a BBC miniseries based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. It tells the story of Molly Gibson, whose life is changed forever when her father remarries, giving her a new mother, as well as a sister, Cynthia. The two sisters grow close, but both romance and secrets abound, throwing everything into chaos. I love this story for its main character (Molly is a really sweet, no-nonsense girl), its setting ( the scenery and costumes are all on-par with any BBC Austen production), and its simplicity (despite all the subterfuge, it’s not a complicated story). If you like Jane Austen, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Wives and Daughters.

  • Books

If you’ve read many of my book-related posts, you’ve probably realized that I really love author Lynn Austin. I’ve read several of her books, and my latest read is called All Things New. In this story, Josephine Weatherly has survived the Civil War, but at the cost of father, brother, way of life, and faith. Josephine blames God for all the senseless loss. Meanwhile, her mother tries desperately to return life to the way it was, ignoring the fact that they haven’t the money, the servants, or the spirit to do so. For former slave Lizzy, the end of the war brings freedom, but she’s not even sure how to take hold of it. As she and her family continue to work for the Weatherlys, a spiral of events occurs in their lives. Yankee Alexander Chandler, representing the Freedman’s Bureau, seeks to rebuild in the South, but he’s met by resentment and violence. Just because the war is over doesn’t mean that wounds are healed. The question is whether or not, in the wake of tragedy, loss, and pain, all things really can be made new.

  • Music

“What You Want” – Tenth Avenue North – In their latest single, the Christian band talks about letting go of the need to be an amazing leader and simply letting God be in control.

“Priceless” – for King and Country – We have infinite worth because God loves us, and this song is heartfelt plea to remember that, no matter what we’ve done or what’s been done to us, God still sees us as priceless.

“Thy Will” – Hillary Scott and the Scott Family – I really like the sound of country band Lady Antebellum, and now their lead singer has done a worship project. This song is a soaring, piano and violin-driven melody about trusting God even when we don’t understand our circumstances.

My Life This Month:

Summer seems like it’s going by so fast. I mean, we all tend to say that about time in general, but, really, the older I get, the faster it seems to go. (Which makes me sound old, and I’m really not…) I’m really trying to learn to live in the moment, and it can be very concerning to see my moments disappearing! Still, that’s life, and, if I’m going to moan about it, then all my time really will fly away!

Sometimes I wish God would quite throwing things at me to strengthen my trust in Him. Which proves that I clearly still need them. But it doesn’t change the feeling. The latest of these “Trust Me” moments is job uncertainty. I found out recently that I may not have my job much longer, not because of anything I’ve done, but because of other things. I was counting on having this job during the summer until I graduate college, and now I may not even have it for the rest of this summer. And I’m a little worried, to be honest. Right now it’s all very tentative, more talk than anything, but that doesn’t stop the flutter in my chest. I love this job. I feel like I’m making an impact here. My brain is still scrambling to figure out the right course of action. What do I do if this really does happen? What happens if I lose this job?

Even though I don’t know what I would do, I do know that I need to trust. God sees. God knows. Everything’s going to be okay.

Last month’s Happenings post was so full of optimism about my writing. I don’t really have updates this month, unfortunately. I haven’t written much since I started working. I have done a bunch of blog work, though, writing posts that will appear over the next few months. I’m happy to finally be doing what I’ve wanted to for a long time: creating a post stockpile. I’m really excited about some of them. As for fiction, though, my burst of enthusiasm has yet to be properly channeled into discipline. I am, however, looking into places to submit articles, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. We’ll see how it goes.

Other Web Happenings:

My Favorite Author | Liam Wood – Liam Wood tries to get an autograph from Maggie Stiefvater and gets his perspective shifted instead.

Song Unheard Contest | Go Teen Writers – Roseanna White is giving readers a chance to create a melody for her newest book; how cool is that?!

Purposeful Pages | Scattered Journal Pages – This is the introductory post for a new monthly link-up that’s starting in July, which will explore questions about life and purpose.

So, how was June for all of ya’ll? I hope you’ve been enjoying your summer! Let me know how it’s going in the comments!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

When It Hurts to Be Single

Have you ever felt an ache deep in your chest for someone to love you forever? Have you ever sat by while all your friends seemed to develop relationships and you were stuck single? Have you ever wished so strongly that that special someone would notice you that it stung deeply?

I have.

And, honestly, sometimes it just hurts to be single.

When It Hurts to Be Single

We all go through seasons in our lives, and the season I’ve found myself in recently is loneliness. College can be a really hard time to be single: I’m surrounded by couples on campus, many of my formerly-single friends suddenly have relationships, and I’ve had a few years now of wishing for a significant other in my life. The weight of all these things together can be more than a little frustrating.

I’m discovering, however, that dwelling on them doesn’t help me, and it sucks a lot of the joy out of life. So, here are some things I’ve been mulling over when it hurts to be single.

  • God Is In Control – This is one of those things that is firmly in my head, but my heart struggles to accept it sometimes. It’s true, though. God is all-powerful and all-present. He cares enough to die for us (Jn. 3:16). He has a plan for us (Jer. 29:11). He cares so much that he has numbered the very hairs of our heads (Matt. 10:30), and we don’t have to worry about food or clothes (Matt. 6:25-32). I’m coming to realize that, if God is in control of all that, then He certainly is aware of my loneliness. And I can trust that He has a plan.
  • God’s Timing Is Perfect – My Creator knows me even better than I know myself. So, He understands the growth I need to achieve; He knows that I need to go through certain experiences; He knows that the same is true of my future husband. I don’t want to rush that and end up with something that isn’t in God’s timing and thus isn’t right. God brought perfect order to the universe in seven days; I’m sure He has perfect timing for my love life, too.
  • I Don’t Want to Be with the Wrong Person – One of my fears is that I will end up in a bad relationship. I don’t know why, exactly, since I have excellent examples of healthy relationships in my life. I think I’m just aware of how badly things can go, and I don’t want that to happen to me. The best way to avoid that, of course, is to trust in God’s plan. Rushing things or ignoring His leading or diving into something that I shouldn’t will all lead to trouble. As with the above point, I can trust in God’s timing. And I believe He has the right person for me. Choosing my own timing could easily lead to the wrong relationship.
  • I Can Choose to Turn My Mind to Other Things – Sure, sometimes loneliness is overwhelming. Trust me, I know. We are, however, called to take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5), which implies that there’s a conscious choice there. I can choose to dwell on that specific person or the crushing loneliness or the resentment I feel around couples. I can also choose to turn my mind away from that. To read or watch something other than a romance, to focus on other people, to thank God for what I do have instead of wanting what I don’t. A huge part of the battle is in our hearts and minds; it’s all about choices.
  • I Can Enjoy My Present – It’s easy to get caught up in the future and in fantasy, but neither of those are places to stay for long. God has put me right here, right now, for a purpose. And, for some reason, He hasn’t seen fit to give me a relationship right now. I may not understand all the reasons, but I do know that they’re valid. So, instead of moping, I can enjoy what’s here – focus on school, making the most of my chance to learn; love my family while they’re all present around me; work on my writing with the time I have; be genuinely happy for my friends and their joys. The list could go on and on. It requires getting my head out of my own misery to make the list, though. Ultimately, I want to enjoy my present instead of looking back years from now and merely wishing that I had.

Being single isn’t always easy. For me, it rarely is. When I find myself struggling, though, I try to come back to these things. They can sound like platitudes, but don’t most platitudes have a base in truth? And focusing on truth is the best way to help yourself through something like this. I hope this post is an encouragement for some of you. I’d love to chat about it with you in the comments!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday Psalms: Chapters 1 and 2

I recently began reading the book of Psalms, one a day. With one-hundred and fifty Psalms, that will take me quite some time, but I’m really enjoying the project. As part of it, I’ve decided to share some of my thoughts on what I’m reading with you. These “Sunday Psalms” posts will appear twice (and occasionally, thrice) a month. I don’t intend to do every Psalm here; the more likely outcome is my favorite ones, two or three at a time. Enjoy!

Sunday Psalms Chap. 1 and 2

Psalm 1:2-3 “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

I’ve been out of the Word for so long, and I really have been, like the next verse talks about, chaff blown in the wind. Recently, though, spending time consistently in the Word, I’ve felt rejuvenated. I’ve still got a lot of things running around my head, a lot of emotions warring for control. But there’s a new sense of being anchored. A breath of intention. A sense of stability. And it is wonderful. It takes time to sit, read, and think about what I’ve read. But I find myself craving that time.

Thank You, Lord, for Your Word. Thank You for choosing to reveal so much of Yourself to me. You’ve recorded Your incredible story of redemption, the trials and emotions of Mankind, and wisdom to bring us closer to You. Your Word is priceless, Lord, and I thank You for it.

Psalm 2:10-11 “Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.”

We had a thunderstorm the other evening, and, in the midst of it, we heard and felt the largest thunderclap I think I have ever experienced. It was terrifying. It literally shook the house, and, for a moment, I wasn’t sure we were going to come through it. The raw power of nature is awe-inspiring, incredible, terrifying. Yet we don’t ascribe that same feeling to the Creator, Who made all that raw power. You think a thunderclap is impressive? Imagine the power of the Living God. He can literally bend the laws of nature to suit His plans. This is no impotent deity we serve. He certainly should be feared. He definitely deserves to be worshipped.

And the thing is, if God is bigger than all the terrifying and powerful things in Creation, then isn’t He bigger than my problems? Isn’t He powerful enough to speak into every area of my life? Of course He is! Look at the detail He put into this world. Do I really think He would just let my life drift along without meaning? No. My God cares. My God saves. And doubt has no place here.

So, what do you think of these verses? Have you been reading Psalms recently? If so, what have you discovered? I’d love to hear all about your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Things to Consider When Worldbuilding

Recently, I’ve been getting read to edit Raiders’ Rise, the novel I started a few years ago. As part of this process, I’ve been taking the rough development that I had of my world, Meristos, while writing the first draft and am now turning it into a more cohesive whole. Worldbuilding, as it turns out, can be immensely complicated, but it’s an important part of depth in writing. This is naturally more involved when writing fantasy, as I am, but these are important things to consider for any novel.

Things to Consider Worldbuilding

  • Climate/Weather – It’s important to understand the climate your story takes place in. This will influence everything from clothing to architecture. This can be a relatively simple process of looking up common weather trends in whatever area your story is set. If you’re creating your own world, though, you may have to do a little more work. In my case, I made things extra complicated for myself by placing three suns in the planet’s orbit. Then I had to consider where my country is placed on the globe so I could map out each month’s weather. 
  • Geography – It’s good to knowknowledge-1052011_640 where your setting is in relation to other countries, regions, cities, etc. Fantasy writers often include a map of their country, which I’ve also done. For known settings, it may help to print maps from the Internet and do some research on what’s what in relation to each other.
  • Regional Diversity – If your story is based on a country as a whole, keep in mind that many things vary by region. Think of the United States and the many subcultures we have: Southern, Texan, New Yorker, Pacific Northwest, Midwestern, and many others. The bigger your country is, the more it will have regions of variance. If your story covers more than one region, you need to understand those differences. For fantasy, that means breaking down what’s the same for your nation’s culture into things that differ. Religious and political views are two big differences between regions, along with customs and attitudes.
  • Religion – Speaking of religion, your story needs to understand it. Even if your characters aren’t particularly religious, every culture has influence from religion of some kind. Your job as a writer is to figure out what that influence is. In real world settings, a Jewish neighborhood in New York will have very different religious practices than a nineteenth-century Alaskan village being influenced by Russian traders. Fantasy cultures are no different; religion should play some kind of role in them. For my world, I developed its religion, gave it a commonality with the religion of a neighboring country, and, in the course of more cultural development, discovered that there are two main sects to this religion. Variation is an important part of understanding religion’s role in culture. Ignoring the importance of religion can be a dangerous hole in your story’s depth.
  • Politics – Every setting that you can possibly think of has some kind of political system, whether that be might-makes-right in some isolated village or an equal split of power in a lunar colony. Wherever there is a community of people, there will be some kind of system for the control of power and wealth. And that’s ultimately what politics is: control of power and wealth. Understand how those things are controlled, and you will understand your political system. How much detail you need to go into depends on who your characters are. For someone with no connections to the ruling powers, you may just need to understand the general air of who’s in charge, where people’s money goes, and what rights those people have. In my case, my main character is a princess, so I needed to have a more solid grasp of what that government looks like. I ended up making a chart/family tree showing every king and queen of Meristos from the time it was founded to the present, which may have been a little overkill, but it was fun.20160518_172501
  • Clothing – Knowing what people are wearing in your story is extremely helpful for giving a sense of realism. For real-world settings, this is something you can figure out with research. For made-up worlds, though, you’ll have to do a different kind of work. You can just base your clothing off some kind of real-world examples; many fantasies use a medieval culture, including its clothing. My world is Greek-inspired, so its clothing includes elements of Ancient Greek and Roman clothing. It’s not an exact copy of either, though, so I broke things down into men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing and gave detailed descriptions of casual, formal, and sleepwear. It’s important to remember that clothing shouldn’t be random; it flows from your world’s climate, religion, and culture.
  • Cultural Customs – Just as in American culture we drive on the right side of the road and say “Bless you” when someone sneezes, every culture has its unique aspects. How are elders treated? How do unmarried men and women act? What are the expectations for mourning and showing grief? What colors are associated with celebration? How does education work in this culture? What kind of things, if any, earn unforgiveable shame? Every culture has quirks; including ones that have a base in the reality of your world will add depth.

Other things to think about when worldbuilding are language (and, no, you do not have to create your own just because it’s a fantasy), transportation (Who maintains the roads? What do people drive?), relationships with and connections to other countries (no country is a complete cultural and political island), money (Goods don’t just magically appear, do they?), food (this should grow organically from your climate and culture), time (How do they keep time? How long is a day? a month? a year?), and entertainment (Is this a sports-loving culture? book-reading?)

Keep in mind that you can go crazy with this if you want to; I’m definitely going pretty in-depth. Keep in mind the purpose, though. You’re worldbuilding (or world-researching) to support your story with realism and depth. Don’t get so caught up in details your story is unaffected by that you’re not actually writing.

Anything you’d like me to write more in-depth about? What kind of things do you consider when you’re creating your story world? Let me know in the comments!