Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Five - The Number of Thanksgiving

One Thanksgiving our entire family was gathered at my grandparent's house for dinner. The table was set and the food was cooking when I walked through the door and everything smelled (as usual) absolutely delicious.

After taking off my coat, I wandered into the dining room and as I walked past the table, I noticed something different.

At each place, next to the water glasses, were five kernels of dried corn.

Thanks to my Christian history books, I knew what they represented.

When the Pilgrims were in America for their first winter, they ran out of food. They were so low on supplies that, towards the end of the season, they each received five kernels of corn for their daily meal.

And when they had the first Thanksgiving, they put five kernels of dried corn at each place to remind themselves of God's provision.

That was the only Thanksgiving I remember where we had those symbols of God's goodness at the table, but I'll never forget it. For some reason, those little kernels seemed to add something more to the celebration that day.

A reminder of God's providence and how truly blessed we all were. And also a reminder of how often we fail to take a moment to thank God for His gifts.

This Thanksgiving, I hope more than ever to remember what has been sacrificed for this country and what Jesus sacrificed for me - and to be truly thankful for the blessings I take for granted every day.

"What if you woke up this morning and found the only things you had left were the things you thanked God for yesterday?" - Terry Shock

Happy Thanksgiving to you all; I am so thankful for every one of you!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Woes of Writing

Sorry it's been such a long time, folks. The more free time I have the less I seem to blog. Perhaps because there is nothing much of interest to blog about?

I have been working like a mad thing on a sequel to one of the novels I hope to publish, though, and that does take a lot of time. And cappuccino. :)

I finished the first novel sometime this spring, I think, though to be actually finished I have to go through and edit it (again) and that is not happening at a very advanced pace. To be perfectly honest, it's not really happening at all...

Anyway, it's set in the 1800's. 1877-78 to be exact. (This was done purposefully so that I wouldn't land my character in the middle of the Civil War, which, to me, is not the best time-period to write about.) It revolves around a girl named Jocelyn (who is the namesake of my pen name. Just a bit of trivia for you!) who lives in England during the golden age of Queen Victoria (which also happens to be 1877-78...).

It's a bit generic, I know.

Jocelyn is 18 and having a lot of the usual troubles most Cinderella-story types encounter. Falling in love, a pushy cousin, a despotic aunt, no parents, a grandmother who is, in most senses of the word, dying, and a twin brother who has been lost since birth.

Just the usual stuff.

So she off and goes to look for her brother and the rest of the story is full of intrigue, romance and murder.

Does that sound like anything you would read?

Looking back over the time between starting it and finishing it, it's a bunch of hills and valleys. Anyone who has written anything can relate here. There are the moments when you're on top of the world, writing away and marveling at how a mortal being like yourself could write such scenes, such jewels of wit and wisdom!

And then there are the lows where all you want to do is erase the blasted junk and start over.

And then there's the time when you put in the last word and sit back with a enormous smile and realize that now you have to go back and fix all the mistakes you've been putting off the entire time.

All those mistakes don't matter then (you're finished!) - until you print it all off and see, for the first time, how long it really is.

And then you go back and edit and realize how tacky it really is. How overblown the drama, how dry and stale the suspense, how flowery the dialogue... And that illusive dream of becoming a published author gets blown full of holes and you settle for an attic trunk stuffed to the bursting with finished manuscripts.

 And then you actually take the time to rewrite that bit that always annoyed you or brush up the dialogue that always hit your ear wrong, or polish up a scene that needed just something more to make it work and you find out again that all is not lost, and that you can still salvage this poor story and make it something more than the generic Christian romances you've read and scoffed at all your life.

And that's about where I am with it right now.

Pounding away on a sequel, while its mother book sits in a binder, not even completely printed, waiting for me to slash it over with colored pens.

Oh woe is me.

And I can't even give you a little bit at the end because I still haven't edited it yet and just looking over it makes me blush.

The only comfort I have at the moment is that no one in it faints and falls into some guy's arms.

Till next time,

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Journal of Procrastination {Day 3}

A fill-in-the-blanks for those days when inspiration eludes me

Date: Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Time: 12:03 p.m.

Thought/Quote/Verse/Idea for the day: Change is inevitable, except from vending machines and, in all seriousness: What if you woke up this morning and found the only things you had left were the things you thanked God for yesterday? - Terry Shock

I got up at: 6:10 a.m. (It took me a full ten minutes to push the covers off this morning :P)

I am listening to: O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Enya (Who needs to wait for Thanksgiving?)

I most recently ate: Breakfast: half an egg bagel with cheese and a bowl of grapenuts with milk

I am currently working on: A sequel to my first completed novel (:D !)

Comfort food/beverage at the moment: Hmm... Anything hot that tastes good

I am looking forward to: Nothing in particular, but I'm excited to be alive right now. :)

I am reading: A Common Life by Jan Karon

I am memorizing: Matthew 5 (still)

I am thinking: about many things: novels, music, the beautiful weather, plans for the day...

Plans for the day: taking the neighbor boys to their piano lessons, writing, making enchiladas for dinner, going to choir, movie night at my grandparent's house...

In my hair: a braid on the side

Most recently wrote: Chapter 4 on my sequel (15 pages and 7,324 words!!!  Just thought I'd share... :} )

I am thankful for: Gorgeous weather (chilly, but sunny and clear), a walk with my mom this morning and watching the sunrise, a peaceful heart, joy, a certain thing I've written that I absolutely love... There's so much to be thankful for!

I am wearing: a denim skirt, slipper socks, a long-sleeved white shirt and a brown-and-pink tunic top

Latest gift listed in my notebook: "morning moons"

Christian self-help book I am currently reading: None really at the moment. I'm thinking about reading Stepping Up: A Journey Through the Psalms of Ascent by Beth Moore, but I'm not sure if it's good or not and need to do a little research.  

My surroundings: my living room. I've been camping out up here for a good while now, writing away (sort of...)

I am craving: barbecue potato chips 

I should be: switching the laundry if it's done, unloading the dishwasher, writing, reading... Nothing immediate

Tomorrow I will: do nothing really interesting that I can think of

Book I am contemplating reading next: The Protector by Dee Henderson (I haven't read a gushy romance in a while...)

Random fact about myself: I am addicted to Nancy Drew PC games 

The weather is: crisp, clear, golden...Breathtaking

Any library books at the moment: One. A Common Life by Jan Karon

Movie(s) I watched within the week: The Last Brickmaker in America and How To Train Your Dragon (which I adore)

Indignant about: Am I indignant about anything? Wow...  

Random movie/book quote that's running through my head: Thanks for nothing, you useless reptile - Hiccup - How To Train Your Dragon

Scratchy pen or smooth pen: don't know, don't care to find out :)

Last thing I threw away: an entire bag of garbage. Folks, I am moving up in the world! 

Last book I bought/received: Flying South by L.M. Elliott

I am wondering: Why I can't always leave things in God's hands 

Song stuck in my head: I haven't got one, at the moment. But I usually do, so stay tuned! (No pun intended)

Most recent crazy plan: I do not have crazy plans! They just happen to be rather stupid and random at times...

Under the clip: same as usual with a library list and math note added

Random Spanish word (courtesy of my English-Spanish dictionary...): I don't have it, so I'll do one that I know without looking - tres - three

I learned today: that I don't pray nearly enough

Picture-thought: I would put one up of the new Japanese lantern/plaid fleece blanket I just made, but I can't get a good picture, so I'll do this instead:

Two of my favorite things: yellow birches and grey skies :)

Till next time!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

September In The Rain

The grey skies and driving rain splattering through the yellow leaves outside my window today remind me of a song I heard last week - and old, old song by Frank Sinatra with such melancholy words and such a sad, sad feeling to it. I thought I'd share and put you all in the same grey-day feeling. :)

September In The Rain
The leaves of brown came tumbling,
In September, in the rain.
To every word of love I heard you whisper,
the raindrops seemed to play a sweet refrain;
the sun went out just like a dying ember,
that September,
in the rain.
Though spring is here, 
to me it's still September - 
that September -
in the rain.

Songs like that always make me wonder about the stories behind them. To me this one speaks of a young woman, standing under a tree on a dark street with the sky heavy and grey above her and the rain falling around her and a single street lamp shining a golden glow on her face. And she's just standing there, thinking about her fiancee who is "somewhere over there" fighting in the war and remembering the last time she had seen him - which could be the last time she ever would.  

I hope you feel properly melancholy now!

'Till next time,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Love Like That

I've been thinking about posting this for a while, but haven't had the time or the words to do it. Now I'm free and I might as well give a stab at getting it down in a semi-readable, semi-understandable way. 

We'll see...

To begin, a little background : 

It's no secret, I guess, that for almost eighteen years, I've been wondering how on earth all my friends have been able to say "Oh, I'm SO in love with God!". And they are. I can see it. But for me, it's always been a struggle. 

I've been a Christian since I could understand what being a Christian was about. I've taught Bible clubs and Sunday School and VBS. I've mentored friends and sisters. I've done countless Bible studies and devotions. I've read books and pored over my Bible. I've been memorizing Scripture since I could read it. And I've prayed again and again for God to open up my eyes to His love - and nothing ever happened. I began to feel like this was it. There wasn't ever going to be that exhilarating knowledge of God's love for me. It was always just going to be an endless drone of "Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins because He loved us so much." 

I'd heard that so many times it lost its meaning. 

I was starting to lose hope when journal after journal was blotted with frustrated rants at God because He wasn't showing me the real meaning behind His death and how I couldn't grasp the meaning of the verses that said that "God's love is unfailing" and "For God so loved the world" and so on and so forth. I felt trapped when year after year passed and I still seemed stuck at the same bland plateau that I had always been on - inches away from grasping the true meaning of my faith and yet still falling short of feeling God's love wrap around me. 

I started giving up because I figured that maybe this was reality and no one really "fell in love with God" and they were just pretending to look like good little Christians. I wrote a letter to a friend once and said that I had realized that this was how it was going to be for me. I wouldn't ever have that heady experience of God's love; instead I would have just a steady knowledge of the love that Scripture assured me was there. 

But as that sank in, I realized that it wasn't enough. If other people had this exhilaration, I wanted it to. But I couldn't figure out how to grasp it and hold it. There were moments, yes, when I knew without a doubt that God loved me and my heart would jump and I would laugh with pure joy. But those moments were few and far between and they didn't satisfy the hunger I felt to know God and fall securely in His unfailing love.  

So I kept stumbling and praying and crying out to God that it wasn't fair and that I didn't understand and that I needed His help. 

But, as usual, nothing came. 

I grasped at solutions that didn't work, I tried this and that and the next thing, I delved into every single idea I could think of that would force me to open up my eyes to God's love and none of them worked. I was right back where I started. 

Frustrated, discouraged, and helpless. 

And then I started a course of joy. Through the writing of Ann Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts (which I have referred to many times lately :D), I began to realize that thankfulness was the only way to fully realize God's love because that is how He shows His love to us anyway. Through the gifts He pours out on us every day. 
I started (ok, I attempted to start - it's really difficult to change old habits and start thanking God for everything!) the list of one thousand gifts and that didn't go to well (I'm still going at it, but one thousand is a looong way off  :-/ ) but another thing that did go better was that I started reading the Bible in a different way. 
Instead of just reading to read, I started paying attention to what I was reading and made more of an attempt to understand the meaning of what I was reading. I was amazed at what I found.

One verse especially hit me. 

Psalm 50:23 - He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.

It was exactly what I wanted. To be shown the salvation of God. To know and fully realize why He died on that cross besides the Sunday School pat answer "to save us from our sins". 

I wanted to know why He cared that we were saved, why He went through the suffering and rose from the dead, why it made any difference to Him that we went to heaven instead of hell. I had a hundred whys and no answers. So I figured that I would prepare the way for God to show me the meaning of His salvation. 

I sacrificed thank offerings in the form of prayer and praise. And I know that makes me sound really holy and all that, but, to be honest, I still forgot to thank Him over and over. 

Praise God for His forgiving spirit...

The answer came with swiftness that knocked me off my spiritual feet. 

He showed it to me in Hebrews 12.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

I had read and heard this verse a million times (exaggeration added) and I had never seen the answer to my questions buried inside it. 

Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross...

It all sort of dawned on me in an instant. One of those flashes when suddenly you realize how stupid you've been. Or, as my friend says, "a real "duh" moment".

Jesus died so that we could be forgiven, yes. But there was another reason. A much bigger reason. 

The joy. 

The joy set before Him. What He was looking forward to. 

And that was the sin barrier crashing down so that He could enjoy real communion with us. So that we could draw near to Him without our sin getting in the way and spoiling the sweetness of the relationship He longs to have with us. 

And when I realized that, I realized the worth I have to God. I'm not just one of the millions whose sins were forgiven by His blood. I'm a personal reason for His death. For the joy of communion with me, He suffered and died. 

And that's a humbling and honoring thought at the same time. 

And it makes all the difference in my view of God. 

That He died for the joy of a relationship with me. That that was the joy set before Him that He died to gain. 

Just thinking about it makes me feel so incredibly small and yet so incredibly awed. 

The King of Heaven died for the joy of drawing me near to Him. 

Where else can you find love like that?

'Till next time,

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Week in Review

Sweet mother of mercy; I survived!

Four days of clinicals are in my past and I can now stay up later than 9:30 and turn off my 5 a.m. alarm.

Such luxury.

And just when I was getting used to these hours...

Truly though, I'm very satisfied. I am eons more confident about the vocation and though nursing home care is probably not what I want to go into, I've realized that I do enjoy the job (though how those overworked CNAs manage nine or ten residents in the morning is quite beyond my comprehension).

I suppose I could do a rundown of how I spent those eight hours every day, but my journal was already bored by that. I'll just do some highlights.

Monday: when the resident I was caring for told herself over and over where I was so that she could tell me when I got back that she remembered where I had gone. She really was a dear; winking and smiling and waving at me. :)

Tuesday: when one of the residents at my table at lunch gave me one of her birthday cookies after we sang "Happy Birthday" to her. She was so sweet about it.

Wednesday: when the usually ornery resident that I was assigned to with my partner was an angel the whole shift and I got a chance to become more proficient in the use of mechanical lifts and take on more of a responsibility role with a complete assist resident who couldn't walk.

When I had an opportunity to follow a CNA around and help with her tasks and chat with her, which, in turn gave me many experiences that I would otherwise have missed.

When I got to play my flute for the residents at lunch. :)

Thursday: my partner and I were able to care for two residents and get them both to breakfast on time. I was able to dress a patient completely on my own and get a few more experiences that I really wanted to practice.

When one of the patients on the Alzheimer's floor told me that she enjoyed talking to me because I had "some brains". I'm still not sure if I should regard it as a compliment or an insult... Lol.

So that pretty much sums up my week! I'm going to relax tonight with my brother's birthday meal and Arsenic and Old Lace.

'Till next time,