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.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Sunday Psalms: Chapters 8 and 10

I’m still on track with  reading through the Book of Psalms, and I’m really enjoying it. Here are some more of my thoughts from the project. Note that the references are now linked to the full chapter they refer to.

Sunday Psalms Chapters 8 and 10

Psalm 8:3-4 “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him?”

I’ve always loved astronomy. The vastness of space holds such beauty and incomparable wonder. The distances boggle my mind; I can’t even fathom the temperatures. Our sun alone is incredible and overwhelming. It’s huge and exceptionally hot. Solar flares and their effects are fascinating. What about the perfect balance of our solar system? Each planet orbits around the sun, yet only Earth is set at exactly the right distance and exactly the right tilt to sustain human life. And those are just the familiar things. What about black holes and nebulae? The universe is amazing to me.

I think, subconsciously, people are so interested in the idea of alien life because they’re trying to explain the mystery of space. What is the point of this incredible vastness and intricate detail if we’re the only inhabitants of it? I don’t have that problem. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Space is beyond our comprehension. It’s beautiful. God made it for us. He shows His glory through it. And I am in awe.

I have to agree with David, here: how can I possibly be significant in the face of this grandeur? It’s certainly not on my own merit. Yet I have worth because He created me. I’m significant because He loves me and chose to die for me. It’s not me. My merit comes from Him, Lord of the Universe. And, if my value is wrapped up in Him, nothing in all the universe should concern me.

Psalm 10:1, 17 “Why, O Lord, do You stand far off? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?…You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; You encourage them, and You listen to their cry.”

This chapter is such a reflection of what I’m sure many of us have thought before. Why do the wicked prosper? Why aren’t they struck down in the midst of their crimes? We believe in free will, but sometimes it seems we’d be better without it; our choices so often have horrible consequences. Why does God seem absent in the midst of our worst tragedies? I  wonder these things sometimes.

I don’t think God is afraid of our doubts. He can handle all of them. When we seek Truth, we will find Him. And, as David realizes, God is present. He knows. He hasn’t forgotten us. It’s hard, sometimes, to understand. But God is bigger than this world, and He is here with us. We just have to look for Him.

What do you think of these verses? Let me know in the comments; I’d love to chat!