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

3wygakaeqc-simson-petrol

  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

hjwkmkehbco-alvaro-serrano

  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

ef1h5yttmz8-annie-spratt

  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!

save us

yay for an acrostic, rhyme, and free verse mash-up. a very merry christmas to you all. ❤

lonelyxmas

Can’t you hear the silent screams and loud laments

Haunting these decked-out streets tonight?

Right when peace is said to have arrived,

Instead this world is wracked by evil’s blight.

Some cry joy in fake fluorescent-light voices,

Too many others cry in corners of despair.

Mary, did you know that your Child’s birth

Accounts for the pulse of unspoken pain in the air?

Still, we need saving. Even now, we need saving. Save us.

you shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins

__from their fears (Everlasting Father)

__from their frailty (Mighty God)

__from their folly (Wonderful Counselor)

__from their pain (Man of Sorrows)

__from their loneliness (Emmanuel)

__from this dark, dark world (Prince of Peace)

you shall call His name Jesus

for He

shall

save

We Cannot Reach Him

We cannot reach Him.

We have tried. Oh, we have tried.

We built Babel, in a vain effort to touch that which we worship, to transcend this mortality, this immorality.

We crafted idols, straining desperately to bring our gods near. (But though they were physically present, they could not bridge the gap between divine and dust.)

We sent men to the moon—how great are we now, this race that can conquer the stars! And yet whenever we stare into space the smallness of us, the loneliness of us, the frail futility of us is all that is reflected in the vast alien expanse.

We stand on the moon and find that we have not reached Him. Instead the yawning divide between us and Him screams out in the blackness, in the infinitely distant galaxies. Stare into the telescope and face the void humanity ever rebels against, the void humanity ever falls short of crossing.

We work and learn and build and theorize and fill our lives with words and ideas and goals and tasks just to hush the haunting ache inside that whispers from the day we were born: We cannot reach Him. 

And still His siren song sings. Come to Me. 

How? We cannot.

We cannot come to Him.

And so, instead, He comes to us.

He reaches us because we could never reach Him.

He destroys our Babel so that we would find Him here, down here on this fetid earth. He overthrows our idols so we would not be content with lifeless, life-sucking lies. So that we would want Him, the life-giving truth. He sprawls out the cosmos so unattainably wide so we would have to confront our smallness.

So we would stand on the moon, facing the frigid night, and then turn to gaze back on Earth.

Earth, where he showed us Emmanuel.

God with us. 

From the stars to the stable, from glory to gore, from infinite to infant. For a people that once spit on the gift of His presence and still rebel, still try to reach Him on their own.

Earth, where he showed us Jesus.

Savior. 

On the cross in the shame and the pain, He forms a bridge. A path appears above the gaping canyon, a way lights up through the void, a hand reaches into your life.

We cannot reach Him.

So He reached us and now when He says come, we can, because He came.

the people walking in darkness have seen a great light // isaiah 9:2

 

i want to know your story

so we were traveling a few weeks back and one thing I love about touring cities and just being in new places (or old ones, for that matter) is people-watching.

and no, I’m not a Whovian but I have friends who are (which I guess is almost the same thing?). 

peoplewalkingcity

I look down from the bus, see one gray-sleeved arm hanging out of the car window next to us

draped casually, holding a cigarette

one seat over, two pale hands clasped, thumbs moving nervously, restlessly

shiny black leather coat, teal scarf, blonde hair in a messy bun, glasses, green-blue eyes, narrow chin, clear skin

looking out her window, face turned slightly away

he has a gray sweater, short “hair-colored” hair, staring out straight ahead

calm but not peaceful

the car is a black BMW, very nice, shiny silver controls on a black dashboard, pulling a trailer behind it

dirty old trailer behind shiny new car

what is going on behind your calm face, casual arm?

why do your fingers fidget and fret for peace?


in the square, I see a girl in a blue coat, smooth, sleek, felt-like, above her black tights

her face, hidden deep within the hood, is very pale

she stands, hands shoved in that lovely coat’s pockets, looking off to the side

I think, “Aloof. Affected.”

then, she smiles

eyes light up, bright blue, like her coat, the smile sliding across her whole face like a sunbeam across a polished wood floor

I look for who or what her eyes have lit upon, and I think I see her, a friend

laughing as she crosses the square

brown hair, round face, joyful

does she know how she makes the other girl’s face, once cold, even frightened, light up like that?

does she know she has the power to part the clouds over a human soul?


who are you

where do you come from

what is your name

what do you seek

why do you cry

what makes you laugh

what fears flood you at night

why do you get out of bed each day

who are you

i want to know your story

after all,

we are all stories in the end

love letters

I like to think of all the blessings, little and big, that are woven through my days as letters of love from God to m.e Each one is rolled up, tied with a ribbon, and laid somewhere that I’ll stumble upon in the midst of my daily routine. Sometimes I miss them. In fact, I’m sure I miss most of them. But here are some that I have found.


  • the red squirrels here in Germany, with those adorable ears
  • Nutella crepes
  • Nutella
  • holding hands with little sisters
  • elibraries
  • music that sends shivers down my back and makes me say “Yes. Yes!”
  • finding just the right word
  • the various shades of red, orange, and gold on trees, mingled together into a kaleidoscopic harmony
  • gazing deeper into the woods, tree upon tree

fallwoods

  • YouTube videos that help with science experiments
  • playing games at night as a family
  • a break from school
  • old Christmas decorations in a new house
  • colored pencils gleaming in the light
  • listening to Christian music while working out
  • family jokes
  • falling asleep to the kiss of cool from my window
  • my calculator
  • memorizing and quoting poetry—an activity I love that doesn’t hurt my arms
  • carpets of leaves
  • sweeping a messy floor & the gratification of actually seeing something cleaner after you’ve worked on it
  • cold cheeks
  • fingerless gloves
  • moss
  • emails from friends just when you needed them
  • knowing you’ve encouraged someone
  • looking through old photo albums as a family
  • the chirping of the cuckoo clock each hour
  • beautiful posters of characters in one of my favorite books
  • mail days

stacks-of-letters

  • Skype calls
  • notes from my mom
  • hugs from my dad
  • stockings hanging by the fireplace
  • family movie nights
  • my dad’s pancakes
  • admiring the graphic design on college brochures
  • Van Gogh’s paintings
  • the sight of my bookshelf, rows of shiny, colorful books, books upon books …
  • VidAngel
  • the Flamkuchen restaurant
  • the bakery down the street
  • the supermoon
  • cards hanging on my wall
  • finding the perfect pair of boots (they actually fit my small feet, gasp)
  • “teaching” my sissies ballet
  • alone in the house for an hour
  • Christmas music playing while working on school
  • warm showers
  • stretching tight muscles
  • my favorite snack of craisins and cashews
  • Bible verses on scraps of paper
  • a stash of new books to dive into
  • a home where stuffed animals are valued and technical appliances have names
  • playing games by flashlights and eating dinner by candlelight when the power went out

dinnercandlelight

  • my dad reading The Chosen to us every night
  • the happiness of my favorite football team winning lasting the whole day (well, week, actually)
  • nerdy classmates
  • Studio C
  • working out a Latin passage till it’s perfect
  • my Sherlockian coat
  • foggy early morning runs
  • birch trees tall against the autumn sky
  • walking in the rain at night
  • forgiveness, again and again and again

Thank You for Your love.

what are some love letters you’ve found? Happy Thanksgiving, everyone (even if you aren’t in America)!

to the moon

Hi, everyone! I just wanted to thank you all for your comments—as always, they mean a ton to me. I’m still trying to figure out how to help my arms, and at this point, it’s all I can do to stay on top of my school work. I really miss chatting with you all, and I feel awful about not replying to comments. I’m making sure to like them to let you know that I do read them and that they bless me. Thanks for being awesome, guys, and I look forward to when I can get more involved again. Until then, I’m going to post poems/musings when I can. Enjoy!

the supermoon last Sunday
the supermoon last Sunday

if I was offered Saturn’s rings

or Neptune’s diamond rain

or Jupiter’s many moons

 

if I was given Andromeda

or the North Star

or Halley’s brief brilliance

 

I’d turn them down for you

I’d turn it all down for you

 

’cause it’s you who smiled at me

when I first stared at the sky

on a sacred night long ago

 

’cause it’s you who witnessed

when I wrestled with

my midnight monsters

 

’cause it’s you who shone

through my window and

lulled me to sleep with a song

 

’cause it’s you who stood still

when my whole world spun,

you my beacon of home

 

I just want the rings you make on the sea

I just want the diamonds you make of my tears

I just want you, holding the darkness around us at bay

 

I’d turn it all down for you

paradoxes

So I’m turning eighteen tomorrow—

*shrieks* MWAHAHA watch out world I can vote now (such a great first election, eh?) 

—and I figured these thoughts I wrote down a few months ago fit that occasion. 


girlfieldswalking

 

 

 

 

 

 



They say I am so mature, so old now. They shake their heads over the car keys and college applications. They give me more and more tasks, more and more privileges and responsibilities.

I feel it, myself—I walk into strange schools to take tests that determine my future (at least, that’s what it feels like). I make plans about college and careers and life. I drive myself around now. I even chauffeur others. I have a job and coworkers and a paycheck. Every day, there’s one more step to take that makes me bolder, more confident, older, more independent.

And I like it, mostly. I like stretching my wings. I like facing something scary and overcoming it and thinking, “Wow, look what I can do!” Or, rather—“Wow, look what God brought me through!” I like looking ahead and dreaming and have the world at my fingertips. It’s like in The Perks of Being a Wallflower—and in that moment, I swear we were infinite.

But sometimes, I feel like a fake. Like my life is duct tape around a crumbling stone, and how long can even duct tape support this sand? I swing the keys and save my salary and sell myself to colleges, and all the while, even while I revel in the new brightness of it all, I’m terrified, grasping at the remains of my childhood. It’s like stardust, so beautiful, so alluring, but so elusive, just slipping through my fingertips.

I’m not ready for this. 

Because inside, I am a little girl still. A little girl who wants her mommy and daddy to hold her during the scary movies and the sick days and the long nights. A little girl who wants to catch fireflies and swing on the swingset and dance in the dewy grace. A little girl who doesn’t care what others think about her, who is, in a way, braver than this big girl who’s so often shackled by people’s perceptions.

I have always felt pulled in two directions, like a walking paradox. Maybe that’s why I like paradoxes, because they remind me of myself. They give me hope that maybe being an oxymoron is okay.

I want to open up and go deep, but I’m terrified of vulnerability.

I want to be at peace with everyone, but I also want to stand up for my beliefs.

I want to cling to the light, but I’m so aware of the reality and even necessity of the darkness.

I want to laugh and dance, but I also want to be serious, focused.

I want to be smart and I want to be simple, and I want to be somber and I want to be joyful, free and controlled, kind and honest, famous and unencumbered, savior and saved.

I want to be old, and I want to be young. I am old, always felt older than my years like I could see and understand things few others could, and yet I’m also very young. Very foolish, very shy, very naive and helpless and simple.

These years, they are this delicate, fragile balance between the old and young. Between so many of those dichotomies—but that’s the thing. Is it too impossible, too unrealistic and idealistic, to believe that maybe I could just be both? Somehow reconcile both together or embrace both or, I don’t know, just be? Just be me, contradictions and all.  I’m not sure if I like the idea, because I like order and answers and reasons, and just being one person with so many conflicting parts doesn’t really fit that.

Maybe it’s like what Madeleine L’Engle says:

Be!

Sing for the glory

of the living and the loving

the flaming of creation

sing with us

dance with us

be with us

be!

And maybe it’s about trust.

Just trusting the One Who made me this way, Who is Himself far more complex and a paradox, too—mercy and justice, majestic and meek, Lion and Lamb. Just living in the present, not worrying about the future when I’ll have to be even more “mature” or yearning for the past when everything was easier.

Maybe that’s what infinite is, after all. It’s the combination of growing up and staying young at heart—“we have worlds ahead of us,” that thought celebrates both. Ahead of us—growing up. And yet, the essence of growing up is that you haven’t grown up yet. You’re still young.

So I am going to relish working and driving and test-taking—okay, not relish it, but enjoy the sense that comes with it of doing important, “big person” stuff. And I am also going to splash in puddles and ride on a carousel and be willing to show how clueless I really am about the world.

I don’t know why I’m afraid of this whole thing, really, because God is still here, with me. I forget that—I look ahead and don’t see Him there, in the future. But He’s there, too, just like He was in the past. Just like He is right now. And actually, He’s in me. He made me. He understands me, better than I ever will myself. And He accepts me. He revels in the paradox and calls me to surrender it to Him so He can do His beautiful-mess-order-from-chaos miracle.

Surrendering sounds all complicated or vague, but I think it’s just a moment-by-moment—there it is again, living in the present again—saying, “What do you want me to do, God?” and “Thank You for this, God,” and “Thank You for who You are, God,” and “Forgive me, God” kind of thing. When I do that, when I think about Him, I don’t worry about myself. And then I can truly just be. I can be me best when I’m focused on Him the most.

I think I could embrace a paradox like that.

prepare for the changing of the leaves

 

dsc_0160

prepare for the changing of the leaves

cover the sky in its shroud

of soft and stormy cloud

and hide the sun so proud

and let drop the rain that groans, that grieves

prepare for the changing of the leaves

~

this whisper, this wind, this dancing breeze

turn it cool and clear

let it tear away all fear

and sing for all to hear

and let loose this goddess in the eaves

prepare for the changing of the leaves

~

in the fertile fields, the golden sheaves

polish them with light

woven from the stars of night

this fiery, faerie sight

and flood the tables with rainbow feasts

prepare for the changing of the leaves

~

let the scent of the air,

so fresh and so fair

let the hue of the heights,

deep blue blinding bright

let the taste of the fruit,

in gratefulness brewed—

let this all be a herald,

autumn’s flaming carol

in death a celebration now He weaves

preparing for the changing of the leaves

i am the darkness

Hi folks! As I work on healing from this tendonitis, I’m not going to be posting regularly. However, I’m not going to disappear entirely—hopefully I’ll be able to post something about once a week. Thanks as always for being such amazing readers. 

reachingintodarkness

i am afraid of the darkness

the darkness inside

inside me

 

life whirls by,

the days hurled high,

and you try to swim

but you have no strength

so you sink

into the blur

and you drink

the elixir

of pleasure

 

(i’ll do anything to escape

escape the pain

the pain of me)

 

the potion soothes,

the pathway smooth,

and you keep on drinking

and you keep on drowning

so you sink

into the mire

and you think

you’re higher—

liar

 

and there in the pit

you’ve carved out for yourself

you taste the dirt in your mouth

and feel the pain you tried to flee

wrack every nerve in vicious glee

 

and there in the pit

you are forced to admit to yourself

that it’s dirty and it’s dark

and the pleasure betrayed

and that this whole hell is

 

me

 

i am the pain

i am the lie

i am the dirty

i am the dark

 

i am the darkness

 

what do you do when the war you were waging

against some far away foe

turns into a war you can’t wage because

it is against you, yourself

 

how can darkness drive out darkness?

 

what if you don’t even want to drive it out?

 

i am ice,

fatally numb

i am fire,

insatiably destructive

i am nothing,

vast emptiness

i am everything,

sickening gluttony

i am darkness

 

and in all my great strength—

strength to kill and to hate

obliterate

annihilate

strength to destroy all things,

myself most of all—

i cannot

reach

the

light

 

 

and the Light says:

now you are ready

and reaches out

to sear the darkness

with its infinite glory

 

and the darkness in all its strength

cannot stand before it

and the darkness is gone

but somehow you are still there

and now

 

now you are light


For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. ~ Eph. 5:8

A Blogday Celebration

Welcome to my blogday celebration!

gandalffirework

Well, oh-most-awesome-readers, the day has come! I’m so excited for it. While no birthday party can match that of Bilbo and Frodo, I hope to capture some of its excitement and cheer here. *admires the fireworks*  *tosses confetti* *hands out cake* Let’s celebrate!

{ fun facts}

In honor of A Glimpse of Starlight’s second birthday, I thought I’d share some fun facts about it:

  • It’s at 296 followers (email-only included)! Two hundred and ninety-six people with their own stories have taken some precious time to click the “follow” button and share a little bit of life with me. Thank you, every single one of you.
  • My first post on September 21st (the day before Hobbit day, I’ll have you know) was a short story, Worldchanger. It’s still one of my favorites.
  • This is my 248th post, which means I post roughly ten times a month. Yikes. I think, however, that the data is skewed from March 2015 when I posted a NaPoWriMo poem almost daily. I can’t believe you guys withstood that deluge. xD
  • I haven’t gotten any horribly strange search terms, but here are a few odd ones: “isabella morganthal” (not sure who/what she is or when she ever appeared on my blog, but hey); “roger burton beach scene” (this sounds like a painting?); “i’m obsessed with the word miscellaneous” (*cackles* yay for miscellany); “what does ponderful mean” (I love that my blog showed up for this)
  • It’s gotten 12,184 views. I honestly have no idea if this impressive or not (probably not but hey), but I feel like it’s an important piece of data so there.

{Qs and As}

So I was utterly blown away with all the questions I received. Seriously, guys, I was not expecting such a torrent, but I love it. I had bunches of fun answering them. Because I didn’t want this post to become too massive (which, heh, looks like happened anyway), I wasn’t able to answer every single question. I just picked my five-ish favorites from each person (if they gave me more than that). Thank you to everyone for these wonderful Fragen (German word for the day). Let’s hit it!

Abi:

If you could smell one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

That autumn scent—the sweet, slightly tangy, fresh, clear scent of crushed leaves and crisp wind. That’s probably my favorite smell in the whole world, and I don’t think it would get old like other scents might.

~
If you could meet a single person of historical significance (dead or alive), who would you choose?

Ahhh. The first person who comes to mind is William Wilberforce, because not only is he my hero and I’d like to ask him about how he did everything he did and tips he has for people who want to emulate him, but he sounds like a genuinely fun, witty, delightful person to hang out with.

~
What is one of your writing quirks?

I never know how to answer this question, but something kind of quirky about me is that I’m a huge morning person—I work so much better and faster in the morning. However, I do my best writing at night. I write way faster then, too. ‘Tis a strange phenomenon.

~
If you had to choose between saving your stash of handwritten manuscripts or your cat (*insert some other pet you might be more attached to*) from a house fire, which would you choose and why?

This sounds kind of bad, but I’m really not a pet/animal person. However, if I were, I’d save the pet because it’s a life. I’m not going to lie and say, “I could always write the story again,” because I know from experience that that’s not as easy as it sounds. But it would still be easier to rewrite a story than, you know, resurrect an animal.

~
What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to do before an audience?

Play the piano. I kid you not. I love acting, and I even enjoy public speaking. But playing the piano? Nope. I’m just not naturally gifted at it, so I feel less confident at it, and my first piano recital ever, when I was seven-ish, was a humiliating disaster. *shudders at the thought*

Sarah:

If you could, would you?

Without a doubt. Unless it was eating artichokes.

~
Pie or cake? Whichever you chose, what’s your favorite kind?

My only answer is to this tortuous question can be: Chocolate cake. Red velvet cake. Apple pie. Lemon merangue pie.

(Have you noticed that I can’t pick favorites of anything? It’s ridiculous.)

~
What’s one thing you like about living in Germany?

I love lots of things about Germany, but one special thing that I’ve really been enjoying is how there are gardens and plants everywhere. Even in cities, every house has a garden, and they can fit so many plants and beauty into such small spaces. Stores and office buildings have pots of flowers outside or window boxes. It lifts my spirit to look around and see so much natural beauty.

Would you rather live in Rome during Nero’s reign or Paris during the French Revolution?

I really love this question, for some reason. It’s my nerdiness coming out. In terms of being able to survive, I’d pick the French Revolution because I feel like I could, I don’t know how to put it, play the game and make it through. I could figure out which way the tide was turning and just go with that. But part of me things it would be so cool to be a Christian during Nero’s reign—like, to see the unity between the Christians and the courage they showed in the face of such danger and to really have to stand up for what I believed in. I guess I’d like to see if I could stay strong. So I’m actually going to go with Rome.

If you were given a chance to live in the world of the Goldstone Wood series, or the world of any other fantasy book/series that you love, would you take that opportunity? Or would you remain on Earth?

Ahhh, those places all would be amazing to visit—but that’s it. Visit. I’d want to stay here because, well, that’s where I’ve been put. This is where my destiny lies, to sound all dramatic. This is where I can best make a difference, it’s a place I want to change for the better. This Earth isn’t my home, but it’s where my path lies, and I don’t want to leave that path (permanently. I’d love to visit those other places. =D).

~
Do you know how awesome you are? *hugs*

Awww. Thank you so much. I hope you know how awesome you are. *hugs back*

Elle:

What song(s) would make up the soundtrack of your life?

“You Will Find Your Way” // Andrew Peterson

“Nothing is Wasted” // Jason Gray

“Reaching” // Carolyn Arends

“Sound of Silence” // Celtic Thunder version

“O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” // Selah version

“Penholder” // Flyleaf

“Hold Me Now” // RED

 

What would your lightsaber’s color be?

If we’re going by what the colors traditionally symbolized, I’d be green, used by Jedi who fight more mentally/spiritually. But in terms of just color, I’d prefer purple or blue. Let’s go with purple.

~
Which spren would you attract the most of?

Oooh. Probably creationspren or anticipationspren.

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What color do you speak in?

Purple, with a tinge of hot pink or spicy red or brown depending on my mood (hot pink for when my inner extrovert comes out, spicy red for when I say things I’ll regret later, and brown for when I’m in the dumps). But ideally and usually just purple.

Do you have a favorite number?

I have two (surprise, surprise). In my mind, nine is purple and two is blue, which are my favorites colors, so they’re my favorite numbers. They’re also the numbers of my favorite sports players (9, Drew Brees; 2, Derek Jeter). I also really like three because the pattern of three is everywhere, from nature to music to theology.

Sarah II

What are your favorite pens/pencils/journals?

This question makes me happy. =D I just got these new colored pens, and they’re perfect—they write smoothly but don’t run. I also have this really nice purple mechanical pencil (it’s actually Really Nice Purple Mechanical Pencil II, because I lost the first one, to my deep dismay). As for journals, I found this gorgeous Moleskin notebook at Barnes and Noble (I am so in love with that store) with a scene from The Hobbit embossed—in color!—on it, and then Tolkien’s illustrations from The Hobbit (plus quotes) inside. That’s where I write down any random story ideas, scene snippets, lines of poetry, etc. I call it my Conlatio Notionem, which is Latin for gathering of ideas.

dsc_0064

What kitchen untensil are you most like? 

I asked my mom about this one, and she said a spatula because they’re helpful, thorough, and come in pretty colors. =D

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What’s your goal this year for your blog?

That’s actually something I’ve been thinking about recently. I’d like to branch out and be brave and try some things like hosting a link-up (I actually have an idea for one that I’m really excited about; I’m still working on the details, but hopefully in the next few months I can try it out). If I had to put it in a sentence, my goal for this year is to deepen the community here, continue to write the very best I can, and venture into some new territory.

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What’s some lessons that God’s been teaching you?

That it’s more important how He views me and not how I view Him—but also that I often think of Him the wrong way. He’s far bigger than I let Him be and far more loving than I let myself believe. That it’s not about what I need to do but what He’s already done. That the Christian life is not a checklist, it’s a relationship. That He’s the only one who can condemn me, and instead, He has declared me innocent.

~
What do you do when you’re stressed?

Go off by myself and either read and listen to music or pray and think. Writing helps, too—I often journal more when I’m stressed, and I tend to write more poetry when I’m stressed too. And I cry too, if I’m stressed enough.

Shoulda Broughta Book:

How do you find inspiration for your posts?

Oh, goodness. I’m always pondering something, and I always have a lot of thoughts about things I’m learning or books I’m reading, so sometimes it’s pretty easy: I just have to take an inventory of what I’ve been thinking about recently and go with that. I also just try to be aware of the world around me and what that triggers inside me. Like, if I notice how the sun makes a pretty pattern on my quilt, what does that make me think of? Maybe the little gifts of God or the beauty of everyday life, which ends up getting turned into a post.

~
Assuming you enjoy writing, do you have any goals or dreams for your talent?

I do enjoy writing, quite. =D Well, I plan to study some kind of writing in college—technical writing/communications. While I love creative writing, I don’t feel that I could make a good living off of it. xP I’ll always continue it on the side, but for a career, I want to write some kind of non-fiction. I’m still trying to figure the exact details of that (someone remind me that I don’t have to have my whole life figured out yet). ANYWAY. Short answer: I want to write for my career, and more importantly, I want it to help people somehow.

Why is reading important to you?

Reading is important to me because it both refreshes me and challenges me. It lets me explore worlds I’d never otherwise be able to, and it teaches me about my own world. It’s a way of connecting with others—both the author and my fellow readers of that particular book. It puts me in the shoes of others and teaches me empathy. It feeds my imagination and nourishes my soul, while also inspiring me and strengthening my brain. Spiritually, emotionally, mentally—it’s one of the most important things I can ever do.

Is there a novel you wish more people would read?

All the ideas I’m getting are books that I feel like lots of people do read. Let’s go with The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge because of the characters and everything they learn or Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgumery because it’s a lovely story with many inspiring themes. Go read both of those, guys.

Lydia:

What fictional character are you most like?

Oooh. The first one that comes to mind is Janner Igiby of The Wingfeather Saga, because I can just really relate to his struggles and personality, even his place in his family—and of course his love of words. Leta in Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s Dragonwitch also reminds me of myself, with her struggle between wanting to stand out/ pursue her own dreams and wanting not to draw attention/cause tension.

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If you had to listen to one song on repeat for a whole day, what song would you choose?

Probably Andrew Peterson’s “Romans 11 (Doxology)” because those words of praise set to that peaceful yet inspiring music would be such an uplifting background for my day.

~
What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

When my friend and I were traveling to South Africa, we had a six-hour layover in D.C., so we decided to take the metro to see the monuments. Unfortunately, the bus ride to the metro station and the metro ride itself took so long that we only had time to dash (with our gigantic backpacks) to the Washington Memorial, take an awful selfie with it (and lovely construction stuff) in the background, and fly back to the metro. I was so proud that we figured out how to navigate the metro by our little selves—and that we made it to our flight in time. xP

~
What’s something on your bucket list?

*grins* I’m going to pick a few:

  • visit all 50 states (I’m over halfway there, I think)
  • see the northern lights
  • learn sign language
  • have some writing of mine published

If you could broadcast one sentence to the entire world, what would it be?

Whoa, what a question. Either Jesus’ words in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” or something like, “You were meant to live for so much more” (credits to Switchfoot), because sometimes I wish I could just wake people up and show them how fragile and fading the things they hope in are, and how there’s truth out there and real salvation and an incredible purpose for their lives.

Lakunsterlin

What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen in your travels to Germany so far?

*flails* I guess the Alps. We vacationed in an Alpine village last time we lived here, and just being able to look around me on any side and be surrounded by these massive mountains was incredible. Walking in the mountains was even cooler (literally and in its popular usage), and the town was so quaint, with gorgeous windowboxes on every house.

Would you say that so far Germans have proved to be “unfriendlier” than Americans, “friendlier,” or just “other”/”different”? (this question has come up several times in my experiences, but I don’t know if I’m objective, so I would love to know what your experiences have been so far)

So, you’re walking down the street in Germany, and you pass a strange. I the American smiles at them and says, “Hallo.” And they either ignore me or frown at me like I’ve committed some crime. That’s the type of thing that makes me feel like saying they are kind of unfriendly. But I’ve met many nice, helpful Germans, who, once you start talking to them, are just as “friendly” as Americans. So when I think about it, it’s really not unfriendliness. It’s just, like you said, otherness, a different culture. They might not wave at strangers on the path like Americans would, but if there’s a reason for you to be talking to them, they are very kind and open. It’s just different cultural norms/social customs that make them seem unfriendly. Once you can look past those, they’re no less friendly than Americans.

 What would you say is the best way to keep yourself focused while reading? How do you not drift off into your own imagination whilst trying to enter an author’s own imaginary world? 

Hmmm. I’m often so engrossed in the book that my own imagination doesn’t interrupt me that much. However, when it does, I sometimes just accept it. Like, clearly my brain needs to imagine and consider all these things, so let’s roll with it. Reading becomes a vehicle for my thoughts to soar. Sometimes I welcome that. Other times, when I really want (or need) to read, I do a lot of underlining/writing notes in the margins. Interacting with the book on the physical level helps me ignore my rowdy brain, and because I’m on the lookout for good quotes or places to converse with the author, my mind stays more focused on it. If I’m getting story ideas from the book, I write them down in my Contatio Notionem. I find that after I’ve done that, my imagination rests because it knows I’ve catalogued whatever it so desperately wants me to know.

Victoria

Would you rather live in Rohan or in Gondor?

By the Valar themselves, what a question. I love hills. Rohan in the movies stirs my heart. But Gondor has mountains and ocean, which I love even more. So, Gondor. With a vacation cottage in Rohan.

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The doorbell rings. You answer it. Sherlock Holmes and Lord Peter Wimsey are standing on the doorstep. Each one wants you to come help them with cases they’re on. With whom do you go?

*squeaks* Help? But no, I know which one. Lord Peter Wimsey.

~
Favorite ice cream toppings?

Chocolate fudge. Whipped cream. NO CHERRIES EWWW.

~
Waffles or pancakes? (Or more importantly, TONS ON MAPLE SYRUP OR NO?)

PANCAKES. And ABSOLUTELY NO MAPLE SYRUP. That stuff makes me sick. And also, only my dad’s pancakes. They’ve ruined me for any others.

~
You’re walking down a street, and a girl with a knife runs out of a house in front of you and looks wildly around. Your first impression is most likely a) AHHH SERIAL KILLER RUN FOR MY LIFE b) is an horror movie being filmed here? c) oooh how can I write a story about this? d) I was too busy daydreaming to notice anything.

B & C, with a combo of both, like “Whoa, is one of my favorite books coming to life?”

{party favor}

You asked for a short story, so here you go! I wrote it for a contest, so the first paragraph is the prompt. 

sunsetoceanpainting

Oliver stared at the ground as he walked swiftly through the hallways toward the office. He was aware of the whispers and snickers directed at him. The students’ stares bored into him like tiny needles. He felt his face flush. Did they know his secret?

All the lies he’d worked so hard to build around the truth were about to come crashing down. His hand trembled as he grasped the doorknob, the plaque above, engraved with “Office of Ms. Arnolds, Vice Principal,” glaring down at him.

~

Lynette Arnolds stared wearily out the window at the tall prairie grasses undulating in a dance that reminded her of ocean waves—oh, dear! She shouldn’t think things like that!

Shaking her head, she rose and paced across the room. Just the other day, she had been secure in her job, confident that she and this whole institution were involved in a noble task. Now?

Now, Oliver Olsen had ruined everything. She’d found his painting that morning, cleverly hidden behind a shelf of books in the mustiest corner of the library. She should punish him, she knew—in fact, she should not even be seeing him at all. Mr. Heisman should, as head principal. Everyone knew how he would handle the situation.

But that was precisely why she was meeting the boy first. Because, bother it all, his painting was beautiful.

~

“You know why I have called you,” Ms. Arnolds said to Oliver, safe behind her desk.

He shifted, unwilling to sit down. “Yeah.” He opened his mouth to say more and then shut it.

Ms. Arnolds raised an eyebrow at him.

“Well,” he said. “I just—it’s just that, why not send me to Mr. Heisman? Isn’t this offense worthy enough for his attention?” The sarcasm in his voice pooled in the air.

She shifted her eyes away. “Nothing artistic—literature, music, movies, none of it—is allowed here. Why?”

He answered by rote. “The arts entangle our feelings and distract us from reality.  Only  math and science provide us with the practical tools necessary for—”

“But do you know why,” she interrupted. “The real reason.” Her eyes bored into his.

He shrugged, uncomfortable from her strange mood. “I could guess. For some personal reason, Mr. Heisman doesn’t like art.”

She nodded. “I knew him before all this,” she told him, softly. Then she began speaking quickly, nervously, her hands fiddling with papers on the desk. “He and his wife—she was everything to him—lived by the ocean near the art school where he taught. One awful day, she got caught up in a rip tide. She was never seen again. He moved here, started this school.”

The art school where he taught? Oliver shook his head. “I don’t know what to …” He tried again. “Did his wife like art?”

“Yes. They met because of their love of art and the sea. She’d sing to him, he’d write poems to her. I remember stopping by their house one evening to find them painting on the beach together.” Ms. Arnolds stopped suddenly and glanced at her watch. “Listen, I can keep our meeting and your transgression from him until tonight.”

He frowned.“What do you mean?” What did this all mean?

In answer, she asked, “Have you ever seen him cry?”

“Never.”

He was about to snort at the idea of Mr. Heisman crying when he noticed the expression on Ms. Arnold’s face. She was frozen there, behind her desk. Her eyes bored into his, begging, and he had no idea what she wanted.

“Ms. Arnolds…?” He faltered as she suddenly came around from behind her desk to grip his hands.

“He needs to cry. It’s the only way to save him. He’s never grieved for her. He just bottled up all his feelings, stuffed them in a cave along with anything that reminded him of her. Please, you must make him cry.”

“What—how?

“Beauty,” Ms. Arnolds told him. The pressure of her hands hurt. “Reveal your truth. Save him.

~

After lunch, Oliver entered a small study room. All sound and motion stopped. Sweat coated his palms, and he contemplated turning tail and running. But Ms. Arnolds’ words echoed in his mind, and all he could think of was Mr. Heisman’s stone cold face, never smiling, never crying.

Jeff, the math geek, glanced up from his calculator and asked casually, “So, Jacobs. What did you see Ms. Arnolds for?”

Oliver swallowed, stepped forward. His walls were about to collapse completely. He could hear his heartbeat in his ears, his heartbeat and Ms. Arnold’s save him.

“She found a painting of mine.”

“You … paint.” Jeff’s eyes had grown huge.

Oliver lifted his chin, feeling strangely free.“Yes.”

The word reverberated through the room.

Then Jeff shrugged. “Hey, I read fairy tales. Got a whole book of ‘em under my bed.”

Oliver stared at him, bewildered. Trying to speak and finding that he couldn’t, he glanced around the room at the sea of wide eyes. Then, above his pounding heart, he heard them: other confessions tumbling out. It was as if his and Jeff’s confessions were daggers hurled into the glass barriers between them all.

“I’ve written poetry.”

“When I’m alone, I dance.”

“I found a way to listen to music. Guys, it’s amazing.”

This last revelation captured the attention of the others, who clamored to learn the secret. As they did so, Mary, a quiet chemistry whiz, turned to Oliver.

“I love colors,” she said, and he knew what to do.

~

Mr. Heisman’s hands were clasped behind his back as he surveyed Mary, Oliver, and Ms. Arnolds entering his office. Behind him, the fading sun slithered through always-closed blinds. Oliver tightened his grip on the shrouded package he carried, and by his side, Mary shivered beneath the principal’s steely stare.

“What brings you all here?” Mr. Heisman’s voice was a blank page.

Stepping forward, Oliver said, “We wanted to show you this.”

Mary and Ms. Arnolds took the each side of the package so he could remove the covering.

Mr. Heisman folded his arms rigidly. “I really don’t have time for any frivolity. Is this at all useful?”

Oliver lifted the cloth. A last ray of sunlight fell through a slot in the blinds and bathed the painting in a golden glow.

Beneath a rosy, fiery sky, waves danced in a thousand swirling hues of blue and green and gold. Mary had chosen the colors perfectly, Oliver thought, grateful. One wave in the foreground was tossed into a light spray, silver specks glittering across the canvas. In the center at the horizon the sinking orb of the sun blazed a brilliant benediction on the day.

Oliver felt himself gasp at his own work. How could someone want a life without this beauty? Then he glanced at Mr. Heisman. For one horrifying moment, the man’s face stood cold and chiseled like an icicle. Oliver felt bare, naked, with this child of his soul—this vehemently forbidden child—exposed before strangers’ eyes. If this doesn’t work, if this was all for nothing …

Then, through the door, came a sound Oliver hadn’t heard in years. One of the students, freed from their fear by his example, was singing.

My love has gone across the sea …

A strange tightness filled Oliver’s chest, and Mary’s hands holding the painting trembled. Then Mr. Heisman’s face crumpled, and he turned from them and wept.


And there we are! Thank you guys for being such fun, faithful followers (alliteration, yayyy). You’re the best. Enjoy the refreshments, and let’s chat!