in which I tell you how my year has gone & stuff I’ve learned

When you take AP classes, the test looms over your whole year, an ominous mountain in the distance you never lose sight of, despite the many hills of lab reports, essays, and projects. By April, it is huge, the only thing you see.

Like any other student, I was crazy stressed for all my AP exams (I had Biology, Calculus, and Latin.). But unlike most others, I desperately wanted to take them. Much as they fray my nerves, I love big tests like these because I relish the challenge. I wanted the satisfaction of surviving and doing well in something hard. A good score would be a validation of everything I put into the subject and the class. It had to do with my pride but also just my desire for all my hard work to pay off.

And it had been hard work. AP Calculus is challenging enough, but when picking up a pencil, much less writing with it, causes pain to shoot up your arm and embed itself deep in your hand, well, AP calculus is really really hard then. Eventually I had to remind my perfectionistic self that this time I had a valid excuse for not doing things as thoroughly as I thought I should.

essay-writing

In late October, when I began to accept that whatever was going on wouldn’t resolve itself soon, my mind flew over the upcoming months and settled on the second week of May. I imagined myself sitting at a desk in an unfamiliar school, bent over one of my AP tests. I remember thinking, There is no way that is going to happen. No way.

In January, I thought I wouldn’t be able to graduate. I’d lie in bed at night and watch my future and my dreams crumble around me. Before, I had wondered how far in education I’d like to go—a Masters or even, who knew, a PhD? Now I was concerned about simply finishing high school. I started judging how well a day would go by how much it hurt to brush my teeth after breakfast. Sometimes I would sit at my desk waiting for math class to start and cry, wondering how I would get through it.

In February, I had written out emails in my head to my teachers, explaining why I wasn’t able to take the exams. Even the week of all the exams itself, I still had an email planned to my Latin teacher, since Latin was the last test and also the one that required the most writing. I am not usually one to give up hope, but this year I was absolutely sure there was no way I would be able to complete the Latin exam—and probably not the others either.

In March, things began to look up. I was in less pain, I was doing things I hadn’t for a while. The terrible fear that I wouldn’t graduate stopped haunting me at night. For the first time in many months, I started to feel hopeful.

Then April hit, and for no explicable reason, things got bad again. It was worse this time, probably because I had experienced, very slightly and very fleetingly, what it was like to hurt less. Descending back into the pain after that was horrible. The shadow of the AP mountain smothered me in stress. Discomfort prevented me from sleeping well.

Camping

Enter the first week of May. I had arrived at base camp, and I was determined to everything in my power to prepare myself for the climb. That Friday, three days before my first AP, I decided to do something I had never done before: I skipped an assignment (gasp). I did it to preserve my arms, and I clamped down on my internal shrieks long enough to enter a score of zero. (In case you’re concerned, I emailed my teacher to explain the zero, and she was super nice and understanding about it.)

The next part of my get-through-APs plan was physical therapy. We had scheduled an appointment for that Friday morning. I’d been doing PT for several months now, and while it didn’t improve things permanently, it did prevent them from getting worse. But when we got to the office, it appeared there had been some miscommunication. Somehow, we didn’t have an appointment after all. Great.

I felt discouraged, but I resolved that I would simply stay away from any writing or typing for the next few days. When I was trying to figure out an activity that wouldn’t hurt my arms, it hit me: I could look through all my cards from friends and family! How fun and relaxing, and it didn’t involve a pencil or a computer.

An hour into the affair I suddenly realized that my arms were aching. With growing dread, I realized—way too late—that all the unfolding, refolding, and flipping through of the letters required just as much from my hands as typing would have. I felt sick to my stomach and behaved very much like Dobby. “You’re so stupid,” I told myself. “Stupid. Stupid.” I kept thinking that after everything I’d done to try to protect my arms, I had just blown everything. I had ruined everything I’d worked for this year. If I couldn’t make it through the APs, it would be my fault.

The next two days I was in the worst pain I had been in all year—and at the very time when I needed my arms to be strongest. Something in the back of my mind whispered, Maybe God is having all this happen to show you how strong he is. Maybe he’ll get you through it, and you’ll come away seeing how great he is.

But I was too frightened to believe it. Another part of my mind yelled back, God isn’t that good.

So Monday morning arrived, and with it the AP biology exam. I sat down at a horribly uncomfortable desk. My feet could barely reach the floor (yeah, I’m kind of short), and to get high enough to write naturally on the desk I had to sit on the very edge of the chair, since the seat started in a valley in the back and rose up steeply from there (who designs these things anyway?). I picked up a pen, felt the pain, and thought, like I had all year, no way.

But I guess when God says that his ways are above ours, he really means it. And when he says he’s the God of the impossible, it’s actually true. Because I got through all three AP exams. I not only finished them, but I did my best on them.

hands

Friday night, when my last AP exam was over, I went into my room, closed the door, and whisper-shouted at the ceiling: “You did it!!” (I rarely use multiple exclamation points.) Then, in awe, “You did it. You did it. You got me through.” It was almost a question, not of doubt but unfathomable wonder. From a human point of view, there is no way I should’ve gotten through those tests, nine hours of holding a pencil, not to mention the other assignments I also had that week. But then, when were we ever supposed to look at things from a human point of view?

Guys, God is good. He is so good. He is so powerful. He is so above us in the best of ways. The whole point of this story is to say—to shout at the top of my lungs, to sing to all the world—that God is good. That when you are your very weakest, that is when he is strongest. That when everything looks impossible, that is when he reaches down to make it happen. That when you reach the coldest, loneliest part of the night, that is when he tells the sun to rise.

This whole year—well, my whole life actually—I have put limitations on God. I have told him that he can’t do things. Not directly exactly, but when I looked at that mountain and thought no way I can climb it, what I really was saying was no way you can help me climb it, God. I assumed that the only way for me to be able to complete the APs was by my own strength—by my clever planning, by all the appointments and exercises and remedies. Instead, God had every single plan of mine fall through. He set me in the middle at what appeared to be a worst-case scenario and then said, Watch what I can do.

I’ve always loved quotes like “the shadow proves the sunshine” and the verse about “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” But until this year, I’ve never truly lived them out. I’ve never experienced to them for myself.

This year has felt in some ways like a nightmare. I’ve always had a ridiculously low pain tolerance, and often I couldn’t believe this particular trial was happening to me. But if it hadn’t happened, I would never have experienced all the love I have. The love of my family (which deserves its own separate post) and the love of God have colored these painful days in strokes as glorious and vibrant as a sunset. When I think about last week, the week that haunted these past few months, my heart can’t stop dancing. I feel his smile all around me, and I keep thinking, “You did it!!

Our God is so much bigger than we let ourselves dream. And this is coming from someone who calls herself a dreamer. I used to feel like it was presumptuous and arrogant to ask God for things or to believe he’d really forgiven me. He has helped me and forgiven me so many times, who am I to ask him for more?

But I am learning (quite slowly, granted) that that’s just what he wants us to do. He wants us to keep coming back, keep asking for help and forgiveness, keep trusting him to do great things. Who am I to tell him he can only forgive me so many times? Who am I to limit God’s help to a finite number I determine? Isn’t this the place he most wants us to be, on our knees begging him for salvation? I’ve got to pound it into my head: he wants me to depend on him.

I’m graduating this week. It’s certainly not the senior year I was expecting; it was far harder than I could have imagined but also so much better. This quote sums up what I’ve learned—or really, what I’m learning:

[God’s] love disposes him to desire our everlasting welfare and his sovereignty enables him to secure it. {A W Tozer}

What a good God we have.


God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. {Psalm 46:5, 7}

I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. I will praise you forever, because you have done it; and in the presence of your saints I will wait on your name, for it is good. {Psalm 52:9b-10}


So my arms are still fried from APs, but once school finishes this week, I won’t have to use them for much. Your prayers and support have meant so much. ❤ It would be such a blessing if you kept praying that my arms will completely heal. The hope is that by resting them this summer, they will heal enough for me to go to college this fall (more on college another time). That will require a lot of self-control on my part, and if you guys have any ideas of activities that don’t involve too much repetitive hand movements (like knitting xD) that would be awesome. =D

Okay, enough about me. I want to know how you are: How has this year been for you? What are some things you’ve learned? Am I the only one who thinks of God as way too small (please say no xD)? What are your summer plans?

a celebration of spring

A few weeks ago my family, aunt, and two cousins went to Keukenhof, a huge garden in the Netherlands with literally millions of flowers. The weather was perfect, and I took 400+ photos. *sheepish grin* My family kindly put up with me stopping every foot and snapping more pictures. There was just too much GORGEOUS. Anywho, I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you guys since I want to share more of my photography. Enjoy my little celebration of spring. 

(Also if you click on the pictures you can see a bigger version, which I’d recommend since I think they look better bigger. =D)


 

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

~ e. e. cummings

So, dear readers: How’s your spring coming? What kinds of natural beauty have you enjoyed? Which picture is your favorite? *hands out some lemonade and cookies*

 

holy week | poem 3

I was thinking about all the different characters in the Easter story, and I was intrigued by how Peter and Judas reacted to so differently to their failures and to the offer of forgiveness. 

judas-brought-again-the-thirty-pieces-of-silver-to-the-chief-priests-and-elders

They say he promised paradise to the sweat-stained, sin-soaked scumbag hanging next to him.

I saw when he looked at a prostitute with eyes that spoke not condemnation or revulsion but love, deep, unshakeable love.

But I can not believe any of that could be applied to me.

I am not just a murderer or a thief or a slut; I am a traitor.

The sound of thirty pieces of silver shattering in shame on the temple tiles haunts my steps.

The taste of the bread he handed me when marking me as the one sours my mouth even now.

The look in his eyes right before I kissed him with my lying, poisoned mouth—

No.

I am impossibly far from mercy.

Impossible. After all I have seen him do, I dare to declare that.

So I turn my back on the light, and I run headlong into the darkness

With monsters whispering in my ears of despair, of my sin, of the blood on my hands that is seeping into the fetid depths of my charred heart,

Of me me me me wretched me.

They tell me that I am a good man, to recognize my sin, to hate it so much, to consider it so great as beyond redemption,

That at least in this I am not betraying him.

I do not see that all I am really doing is saying that he is too weak to ransom me.

That my sin is more powerful than his love.

And so my death gains not my absolution

But only proclaims my greatest blasphemy.

Silhouettes rooster crows in the morning

I remember when I first met him.

I was sweat-soaked and red-faced, the odor of fish permeating my clothes and skin.

The numbing repetition of my days had snuffed out any dreams. There was no escape from my destiny of loud, stupid, reeking fisherman.

And then he looked into my eyes, piercing me like I would a fish,

And what could I do but follow?

For he looked at me like I had some sort of worth.

When he looked at me, I felt like a warrior. I felt the rags of my past life slipping away.

He pulled me up from the waves and called me his rock.

And I betrayed him.

When I needed him, he saved me.

When he needed me, I abandoned him.

I was ashamed of him. It was like a sickness had invaded me, like I was falling into a swirling vortex, dizzy and dark. I raged against it even as I gave into its clutches.

When the rooster crowed, I thought

I’ll kill myself. 

I don’t want to live anymore. I don’t deserve to live anymore.

And then I saw him. He saw me.

His eyes bored straight into mine, like the first time—

I’ll kill myself

And all I saw was

Forgiveness. Compassion. Love.

So I didn’t kill myself, but I ran away anyway,

Back to my boat and the only thing I was good for. Who had I been kidding these past few years?

But again he sought me out

And again he told me I had a purpose, that I was his rock.

Forgiveness.

Who was I to take it? Three times, I had spit on him, on all he had given me.

I had made it to so very clear that I wanted nothing to do with him.

And here he was, hand outstretched, saying it again,

Follow me.

And I realized that it wasn’t about me, about my failures, that to truly love him would be to accept his love.

It is finished, he had said.

Who was I to say, no, it’s not, I must redeem myself? Who was I to say that I even could?

So I took his hand, and he pulled me up,

As he would do again and again and again the rest of my life.

holy week | poem one

*appears with a dramatic flourish of my cape* Hey hey hey. Spring break is this week for me, which means more fun writing (well, any fun writing at all). It happens to line up with Holy Week, which I’m really happy about because I wanted to write some Easter poems. Ugh, guys, I’ve missed poetry writing so much I can’t even describe it. Not being able to do NaPo this year is painful. But this week I’ll be doing what I can, and I’m excited to share whatever poems or musings I come up with. *prances about happily* Okay, let’s get started. 

So. Palm Sunday. Here’s the story if you don’t know it.


palm

when we sang

hosanna

we were dreaming of

white horses and grand armies,

freedom from oppression

and the destruction of Rome

we imagined riches and peace

and comfort and defeated enemies

so we paved the path with palm branches

and all these gilded dreams

and we cried

hosanna

`

but when your path led only

to shame and pain and dark,

when instead of conquering the Romans

you became their next victim,

their next victory,

how could we sing

hosanna

then?

`

this does not look like what we dreamed

this is not glory and power and freedom

this is suffering and sorrow and sacrifice

this is hard and lonely and

we do not want it

`

we will only sing

hosanna

when you give us what we think we want

when your path lines up with our dreams

when you save us from anything but ourselves

an unseen kingdom, a spit-soaked cross

is too high a price for our

hosanna

thank you, pi

cirkels

we live in a world bereft of wonder

all these ones and zeroes,

supermarkets bloated with too many trivialities, and

news flash fast food facebook frenzies

whittle away at our sense of awe

until the word ‘awesome’

is as flat and empty as a computer screen when the power’s out

don’t we all hate power outages?

seems like society is suffering

from one big power outage

seems we’ve all forgotten

that power comes from fairy tales and children’s stories,

from those old-fashioned things called truth and charity,

from people who value silence and family dinners and walks in the park

 

but every once in a while,

something comes along that strips away at

the callouses encasing our souls

and opens our eyes to the magic that hides in the mundane:

something like pi

 

you brush your teeth and the water flows down a circular pipe

you walk to work and step over a round manhole

you slip on a bracelet with a diameter unfortunately much wider than your wrist’s

the clock on the wall, the ball in your garage, the shape of your favorite coffee mug—

everywhere, circles

you learn about them almost as soon as you can walk

you experience them the first time you look into your mother’s eyes

no beginning, no end,

just one continuous curve

so simple, right?

and yet woven into their nature is a ratio that defies rationality

we’ll never truly understand it, never fully map it

infinity—

with all our learning and research and inventions,

what do we understand about infinity?

we are building a tower so we can touch the stars

but there are some things that will forever remain outside our grasp,

some mysteries that will always demand humility

mysteries like a number that goes on forever and never repeats

mysteries like a God who can create such a number and knows its every digit

 

here’s to circles,

constant and familiar and sure

and here’s to the pearl at their centers,

the marvel that never stops unraveling,

a trail of mystery and magic winding past anything we can know into infinity …

thank you, pi,

for shaking us from our stupor

and reminding us again

what it is

to wonder

Happy Pi Day, everyone!

 

 

there is a kind of poetry in pain

silvestri-matteo-176500.jpg

I read a blog post the other day encouraging writers to write. Like, don’t ignore it because you’re busy with other hobbies or projects or life because if you’re really a writer, it’ll hurt you, body and soul, not to write. It’s unhealthy not to write.

But what if you can’t, literally can’t?

There are twin wings of fire stretching across my back, searing into my shoulders. 

The thought comes to me one day, one of the bad days. I like how that sounds, twin wings of fire. I imagine them stretching behind me, devouring my days in a smoky haze of hurt.

I take a shower and let the soothing warmth cascade down my burning shoulders and start composing a poem in my head about twin wings of fire. There are many different kinds of pain, I am learning. When it’s bad, I like to describe the pain mentally with the most vivid words I can conjure. They’re good poems, these ones inscribed in my mind.

I wonder if I’ll ever write them.

I discover that every part of me that hurts is also a part of God mentioned in the Bible.

My hands scream after holding a pencil—but He has a mighty right hand, and I am held in His palm.

My arms throb—but He has everlasting arms (teach me to lean on them).

My shoulders ache after only an hour of work—but His shoulders, they bear the weight of kingdoms.

These comparisons comfort me, they get me out of bed each day and quell the cries of terror at night.

When I scroll through blogs, I feel a cold ball settle in my stomach. With every word I read, I feel a dart of pain shoot through my heart. I should be happy, should be encouraged by my friends’ words, should rejoice over their art. But I don’t. Instead, I feel sick. Sick with jealousy. I want to write, I want to create, I want glowing comments on my blog. And then I feel sick at myself. I’m a horrible friend. I’m a horrible person.

I guess that’s one good thing that’s coming from this: I’m realizing how weak I am, physically and spiritually.

i watched the city burn

these dreams like ashes float away

Your voice I never heard

only silence 

/

where were You when our hearts were bleeding?

where were You, it all crashed down?

never thought that You’d deceive me

where are You now?

why

I have asked this question many times.

why why

But I have found that it only leaves me drained, full of more despair.

why why why

It leaves me focused on the darkness. But oh God, I need to see the light.

So I have been trying to say thank you instead.

thank you that I can get out of bed by myself, dress myself, feed myself

thank you that I can hear music

thank you that I can see the faces of people I love and ink on a page and sunlight through trees

thank you that I can taste chocolate

thank you that I can smell the air after a rain storm

thank you that I can touch my soft sheets and my little sister’s cheek

thank you that I can think, that I have a good mind, that I can learn and analyze and ponder

thank you for friends that pray for me and laugh with me and help me keep on dreaming

thank you for a family where we say “I love you” to each other and make up after fights, for a home that’s a safe place

thank you for You, for Your crazy promises that You’ll never leave me and You have a plan

emre-gencer-15152

Nothing is wasted, sings Jason Gray.

And my dad says to me: God will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.

I guess, if I really needed to write right now, I would be able to. But I’m not. So God will get me through another way.

One day, I was sitting on my bed, crying, and the fragments of poems I’ve drafted in my head whispered through my mind, and I thought of all the poetry I’ve been memorizing recently because that at least is something I can do, and it hit me suddenly, a Truth so much stronger and truer than the reality of my current affliction—

there is a kind of poetry in pain

I jumped off the bed and scribbled it on a piece of paper, and it lay there on my desk for days, a silent shout of defiance.

Somehow this pain is opening my eyes to deeper truths of poetry and art and beauty and how they are all woven into our lives, and someday it will help me create poetry that is better and deeper and truer than it ever could have been if I had been fine.

I read, once, that all great artists have some kind of tragedy in their lives, and I used to be anxious because I’ve really had a great life, so I probably would never be a great artist … but now, I’m suffering. It’s not a tragedy as horrific as many others have endured, of course, but it’s suffering all the same.

And I believe that God will use this taking away of my art to eventually enable me to create even better art.

Your heart is full of broken dreams
Just a fading memory
And everything’s gone but the pain carries on
Lost in the rain again
When will it ever end?
The arms of relief seem so out of reach
But I, I am here
/
I am with you
I will carry you through it all
I won’t leave you, I will catch you
When you feel like letting go
Cause you’re not, you’re not alone
/
And I will be your hope, when you feel like it’s over
And I will pick you up, when your whole world shatters
And when you’re finally in my arms, 
Look up and see: Love has a face.

I want to create art. It’s what I’m called to do, made to do. I can hear my soul crying out to add some beauty to this world.

But I can’t draw or write or play an instrument, I can’t create art, I can’t

A quote rises from the mists of my memory, from Henry Hames’ The Portrait of a Lady:

“Don’t you remember my telling you to make your life a work of art?”

It’s one of those moments when I know God is speaking directly to me.

I may not be able to create art of paper or pen (or screen), no, but couldn’t I make it of my life?

Could me praising God in the pain be my painting, with  brushstrokes of thankfulness and a fierce, shining, defiant joy?

Could me treating my siblings kindly, with respect and care despite my own problems or agenda, be my song, with notes of love and grace?

Could my every breath, my every mundane task, my every falling and being forgiven be my poem, etched in my actions for all to read?

Could my life be art?

What a masterpiece a life could be, so far beyond one small novel or sketch. Maybe by taking away my original dream, God is showing me one far greater.

Of course He is. That’s the kind of God He is. I put limits on Him, told Him He couldn’t use me to make something beautiful if I couldn’t write.

But whoever heard of God not being able to do something?

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

~ 2 corinthians 12:9-10


So I’ve been on break this week, and it’s been so wonderful to write two whole blog posts. Now that I’ll be diving back into school, I might disappear again, but I will be back eventually. Oh, and *hands chocolate to the wonderful unsplash for the photos*

Thank you as always for your comments and likes—I love hearing from you all, and I honestly feel blown away that you guys are still around after my sporadicity (word?) and silence. Don’t forget how fabulous each of you are. *hands you all some chocolate too because y not chocolate is da best*

on Harry Potter

Hi guys. Sorry for disappearing—my arms have kept me from writing (more on that later). But I have been doing lots of reading, and as you’ve probably figured out, I’ve delved into the (in)famous Harry Potter series. Here are some of my thoughts on it. 

Also, I’m on Goodreads! It’s so awesome; I love it. I’m Aberdeen; come and follow meeeee. 


SO. Harry Potter. I was originally not allowed to read it, but my parents recently said I could if I watched out for certain things and discussed them with them. So I began, filled with both excitement and skepticism. “Harry Potter” is such a controversial, connotation-ridden phrase in Christian circles, I didn’t know what to expect.

When I finished book 1, my reaction was, “This is it?” Like, this is what we’ve been shunning? Good grief, it’s positively innocent compared to the dark hints I’ve heard about it. And I’ve read (and enjoyed) many books with much fishier worldview (looking at you, Christopher Paolini and Brandon Sanderson. Not that they’re not awesome, but you need discernment while reading them.). If you’re not sure about HP or have heard such hints, here are some things you should know:

Witches are girls who can use magic; wizards are guys. That’s all “witch” means (no, we’re not talking about the witch of Endor that Saul was condemned for meeting in the Bible). Speaking of magic, it’s not calling up spirits (which I believe is what the Bible was specifically condemning); it’s just turning things into other things or manipulating physical objects to do stuff (like fly or be impervious to certain substances).

There is a very clear distinction between good and evil; the kids at Hogwarts take classes to help them fight Dark Magic, and there are rules about what spells are allowed (for example, you’re not allowed to use the death spell on people).

Not only do these books not have bad stuff in them, they have a lot of good. There are so many beautiful in themes in them—the power of love and sacrifice, the beauty of families who love each other, the value of love over riches, the danger of immortality, courage, loyalty, what it means to be a good friend, looking beyond appearances, being kind to “inferior” people, choosing what’s right over what’s wrong, did I mention courage?…

The first book didn’t super grab me—the writing and plot felt a little simple. But it was good enough to keep going, and by book 3, I totally get why so many people are into them. Her writing, characters, and plot get so much richer and complex.Don’t stop at book 1, peeps (this goes for a lot of series, actually. Authors learn and grow like the rest of us.). Also, her humor is amazing, and I love the British feel of them—reminds of Narnia in that way. Also Quidditch.

I’m not saying these books are perfect or even on par with Lord of the Rings or that I totally agree with every decision of the characters (but is there a book where I do?) but the reputation they’ve cultivated seems to have come from hearsay, fear, and rumors rather than truth.

Also, here’s an incredible article on the series by Andrew Peterson: Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me.

So—what do you guys think? Have you read them? What do you like/dislike about them? Have you, like me, shied away from them because of stuff you’ve heard? (Also, I’ve missed you all. *waves wildly*)

Reading Recap 2016

Hi guys! Here is the full list of all books I’ve read in 2016. The bolded ones are those that made my favorites list (see yesterday’s post), and the ones in brackets are rereads. The list starts with the first book I completed in 2016, so the most recent ones at the end.

Which of these have you read? What are some of your favorite reads this year? Let’s talk books!

1. Walking on Water ~ Madeleine L’Engle

2. Lightless ~ C. A. Higgins

3. Updraft ~ Fran Wilde

4. Not Without Honor ~ T. Elizabeth Renich

5. Ink and Bone ~ Rachel Caine

6. Nicomachean Ethics ~ Aristotle

7. The Westing Game ~ Ellen Raskin

8. Poetics ~ Aristotle

9. Paradise Lost ~ John Milton

10. The Tattooed Potato (And Other Clues) ~ Ellen Raskin

11. The Apocrypha (selected books)

12. Bands of Mourning ~ Brandon Sanderson

13. The Innovators ~ Walter Isaacson

14. Mission Possible  ~ Marilyn Laszlo

15. Middlemarch ~ George Eliot

16. Calamity ~  Brandon Sanderson

17. Sense and Sensibility ~ Jane Austen

18. Simply Tuesday ~ Emily P. Freeman

19. Thrones, Dominations ~ Dorothy L. Sayers

20. Hood ~ Steve Lawhead

21. The War With Hannibal ~ Livy (selections)

22. David Copperfield ~ Charles Dickens

23. Foundling ~ D. M. Cornish

{A Ring of Endless Light ~ Madeleine L’Engle}

24. The Small Rain ~ Madeleine L’Engle

25. On the Nature of Things ~ Lucretius

26. Lamplighter ~ D. M. Cornish

27. 100 Cupboards ~ N. D. Wilson

28. selected readings by Cicero

29. Factotum ~ D. M. Cornish

30. Dandelion Fire ~ N. D. Wilson

31. The Chestnut King ~ N. D. Wilson

32. A Circle of Quiet ~ Madeleine L’Engle

33. Dragonflight ~ Anne McCaffrey

34. The Wand in the Word ~ Leonard S. Marcus (editor & compiler)

{Troubling a Star ~ Madeleine L’Engle}

{Outliers ~ Malcolm Gladwell}

35. Wuthering Heights ~ Emily Brontë

36. Eclogues & Georgics ~ Virgil

37. Frankenstein ~ Mary Shelley

38. Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle ~ N. D. Wilson

39. The Jewish War (selections) ~ Josephus

40. A.D. 30 ~ Ted Dekker

41. Immanuel’s Veins ~ Ted Dekker

42. To the Lighthouse ~ Virginia Woolf

43. The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict ~ Trenton Lee Stewart

44. Meditations (books 1-7) ~ Marcus Aurelius

45. The Chosen ~ Chaim Potok

46. The Apostolic Fathers ~ trans. by J. B. Lightfoot & J.R. Harmer

47. Alexander Hamilton ~ Ron Chernow

48. Mistborn: Secret History ~ Brandon Sanderson

49. The Promise ~ Chaim Potok

50. My Name is Asher Lev ~ Chaim Potok

51. Art and the Bible ~ Francis Schaeffer

52. How Star Wars Conquered the Universe ~ Chris Taylor

53. Dear Mr. Knightley ~ Katherine Reay

54The Wednesday Wars ~ Gary D. Schmidt

55Lila ~ Marilynne Robinson

56. Hamilton: A Revolution ~ Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

{Ender’s Game ~ Orson Scott Card}

{North! Or Be Eaten ~ Andrew Peterson}

57. A Branch of Silver, A Branch of Gold ~ Anne Elisabeth Stengl

58. The Selection ~ Kiera Cass

59. A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape From North Korea ~ Eunsun Kim

60. Vinegar Girl ~ Anne Tyler

61. Lavinia ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

62. Challenger Deep ~ Neal Shusterman

63. Storming ~ K. M. Weiland

64. The Dean’s Watch ~ Elizabeth Goudge

65. Amazing Grace ~ Eric Metaxas

66. Rise to Rebellion ~ Jeff Shaara

67. Originals ~ Adam Grant

68. To Get to You ~ Joanne Bischof

69. Two From Galilee ~ Marjorie Holmes

70. Stargirl ~ Jerry Spinelli

{When You Reach Me // Rebecca Stead}

71. Silas Marner ~ George Eliot

72. A Student’s Guide to The Core Curriculum ~ Mark C. Henrie

73. Salt to the Sea ~ Ruta Sepetys

74. Between Shades of Gray ~ Ruta Sepetys

{The Fellowship of the Ring ~ J. R. R. Tolkien}

75. Things Not Seen ~ Andrew Clements

{The Two Towers ~ J. R. R. Tolkien}

{Antigone ~ Sophocles}

76. Burial at Thebes ~ Seamus Heaney

77. The Railwayman’s Wife ~ Ashley Hay

{Oedipus Rex ~ Sophocles}

{The Return of the King ~ J. R. R. Tolkien}

78. Fierce Convictions ~ Karen Swallow Prior

{Oedipus at Colonus ~ Sophocles}

79. The Bird in the Tree ~ Elizabeth Goudge

{The Way of Kings ~ Brandon Sanderson}

{Words of Radiance ~ Brandon Sanderson}

80. Pilgrim’s Inn ~ Elizabeth Goudge

81. The Heart of the Family ~ Elizabeth Goudge

{selections from Plutarch’s Lives}

82. Sweet Mercy ~ Ann Tatlock

83. Promises to Keep ~ Ann Tatlock

84. A Time to Die ~ Nadine Brandes

{most of the Mitford series ~ Jan Karon}

{Inferno ~ Dante}

85. A Time to Speak ~ Nadine Brandes

86. Purgatory ~ Dante

87. A Time to Rise ~ Nadine Brandes

88. The Thief ~ Megan Whalen Turner

89. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks ~ Rebecca Skloot

90. Paradise ~ Dante

91. Star of Light ~ Patricia St. John

92. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street ~ Jeanne Birdsall

93. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette ~ Jeanne Birdsall

94. The Penderwicks in Spring ~ Jeanne Birdsall

95. A Long Walk to Water ~ Linda Sue Park

96. The Right Thing ~ Scott Waddle & Ken Abraham

{100 Cupboards series ~ N. D. Wilson}

97. The Hawk and the Dove ~ Penelope Wilcock

98. The Butterfly and the Violin ~ Kristy Cambron

99. The Secret Keepers ~ Trenton Lee Stewart

100. Five Glass Slippers ~ Ed. by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

101. Five Enchanted Roses ~ Ed. by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

102. Wingfeather Tales ~ Ed. by Andrew Peterson

Out With the Old, In With the New {2016}

Ah, 2016. It’s certainly been a year, hasn’t it? For me personally, it was a good year. I earned a lot of money teaching swim lessons in the first half of the year; I traveled to South Africa on an amazing mission trip; I got to visit family, colleges, and the beach (THE BEACH, guys. My favorite thing in the world.). These past few months in Germany have been wonderful—not only have I loved living in this beautiful country, but somehow my school schedule this year has let me be way more productive and actually have more free time than last year. I feel less stressed, even with college apps and my arm pain. So praise God for all of that.

But as for the world, it’s been a rather rough year. Every day I was in South Africa, there was a new report of some shooting in America. At least, that’s what it felt like. Terrorist attacks cropped up sickeningly often. And the election, all the anger and accusations, the chaos and confusion, all the tension and bitterness that have left us exhausted. The death of Carrie Fisher seemed to seal 2016’s doom as a particularly rotten year.

I don’t have anything particularly eloquent or profound to say to all that except that, well, it’s a new year. Isn’t it just like God to give us a fresh start every twelve months? He’s the God of second chances, the God of working redemption in the dark. His story—in you personally, in this wide, aching world at large—is far from done. So right now I’m going to take a breather and think about some of the things that went right this year. Will you join me?


Reading Review: 2016

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  1. I failed my goal of 110 books. This failure of my book count goal is becoming a tradition, it seems. And while I’m not overly concerned with the number of books I read, I do feel like this was a dryer reading year. I certainly found many books to enjoy, but overall … I don’t know, it just wasn’t as spectacular or earth-shattering as years past. But that’s okay. I know every year can’t be like that. And I did stumble upon some treasures …
  2. THE LIST. So last year I picked my top six books for three genres—non-fiction, fiction, and speculative—that I’d read that year and that were new to me. This year, I read wayyy less speculative stuff than before, so I felt like I couldn’t really find six stellar books for that category. Instead, I’m going with my top eighteen books in those three categories, but the categories can have unequal numbers of books. (I’m probably the only person who cares about the number of books, but whatevs. It makes my OCD happy.) Here ya go:

Non-fiction: 

  • The Innovators ~ Walter Isaacson
  • Walking on Water ~ Madeleine L’Engle
  • Art and the Bible ~ Francis Schaeffer
  • Alexander Hamilton ~ Ron Chernow
  • Amazing Grace ~ Eric Metaxas
  • Originals ~ Adam Grant

Fiction: 

  • Vinegar Girl ~ Anne Tyler
  • The Chosen ~ Chaim Potok
  • Challenger Deep ~ Neal Shusterman
  • Middlemarch ~ George Eliot
  • David Copperfield ~ Charles Dickens
  • Paradise Lost ~ John Milton
  • The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict ~ Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Salt to the Sea ~ Ruta Sepetys

Speculative: 

  • A Foundling’s Tale series ~ D. M. Cornish
  • 100 Cupboards series ~ N. D. Wilson
  • The Thief ~ Megan Whalen Turner
  • Wingfeather Tales ~ Ed. by Andrew Peterson

Writing Wind-up: 2016

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  1. NaPoWriMo. This was my third year doing the National Poetry Writing Month, although I did it in May this time, so I could do Camp NaNoWriMo in April. A few other bloggers joined me in my May excursion, which was really fun. *high-fives my rebel buddies* As always, I loved NaPo, and I hope to do it again this year.
  2. Phoenix. *minor squeal because this story just makes me happy and excited* So for Camp NaNo in April, I wrote a short story called Phoenix. Except that it ended up being not so short. Its current version is sitting pretty at 22k, which I guess is novella length? I finished it in July (I think) and have started editing it. I’m not sure when I’ll finish that and how/where I’ll reveal it, but I’m just glad that I actually finished a longer writing project.
  3. Um? *coughs* So yeah. I didn’t really do much else, mostly because I was super busy with my job and traveling in the summer, and my arms have been hurting since. But I’ve also been working on college applications and being the senior editor for my online school’s e-magazine (shameless self-advertising there, mhm). I feel like I’ve got a story brewing in me, but it’s pretty deep down in there. It’s going to be big, I think, and right now I’m content to jot down notes and read and just let it germinate. My arms couldn’t handle a big project now anyway. I’m trying not to get discouraged that I’ve done so little compared to what other people are doing. I know God doesn’t waste anything, and maybe this time is a learning, rejuvenating time. Maybe when my arms heal, I’ll have a lot of story ideas and inspiration that I’ve accumulated during this waiting period.

The Best Is Yet to Come: 2017

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  1. This blog. I just have to say, I love this blog. I love posting on here, I love your comments, I love interacting with you guys. This whole experience has been a huge blessing to me. For now, I’ll be posting when I can, probably a few times a month, with whatever poetry, stories, and musings I’m able to write. It’ll be nothing like last year, when I posted about three times a week and had a fancy schedule, but it’s something. I also want to change my theme at some point; I’ll update you when that happens. *bounces*
  2. NaPoWriMo & more. I’m honestly not sure if I’ll be able to physically handle NaPo, but I’d really love to. Maybe I’ll tailor it to what I can do, like three poems a week instead of one a day. We’ll see. NaPo is one of my favorite things ever, so I’m going to fight to make it work. Also, depending on how my arms are, I really want to try to enter Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s yearly fairytale retelling contest. I finally bought the previous collections (her Christmas sale on those was amazing), and they’ve really inspired me. *more excited bouncing* Oh, and figure out what to do with Phoenix. That’s another goal for this year.
  3. 100 books. Yeah, my book count for each year keeps getting shorter. But hopefully also more realistic. Besides, 100 is such a nice, round number. It makes me happy.

* all photos from unsplash

And that’s all, folks! Here’s to another year of doing hard things and looking for the light—and, of course, writing a lot and reading even more. How was 2016 for you, personally or otherwise? Any favorite books or writing projects? *hands some sparkling grape juice* Let’s chat!