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

 

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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.

~
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.

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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

~
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.

~
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.

~
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.

~
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!

Slight Change of Plans

Hello everyone!

I just wanted to write you a brief note and let you know that I’m going to have to push back the blogday post. I really, really tried to avoid this, but it looks like my only option right now. I’m struggling with tendonitis again, so by the end of the school day, there’s little to no “fun” typing that I’m able to handle. Again, I am terribly sorry about this—I hate disappointing you guys, and I hate not being able to fulfill what I said I’d do. However, hopefully it won’t get pushed back too far—the end of this week to the beginning of next, if all goes well. I’ve also identified some things that will hopefully prevent these flare-ups in my arms, but right now I just have to work on healing them. Thank you all so much for your understanding and for being such faithful readers. I can’t wait to celebrate with you—it is going to happen, just a little later than planned.

See you at the party!

~ Aberdeen

Coming Home

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I wasn’t prepared for this feeling of awkwardness, for the insecurity not knowing a language would bring. Last time we were here, I was young, too young to be self-conscious or care what people thought of me. Now I care. Now I want to have it all together, to say just the right thing. But of course I can’t. Of course I’ll make mistakes, ask for a table when I mean a bag. No one even expects me to be perfect—except me.

We enter the room filled with all the other newcomers, and I feel even more out of place. Now it’s not just German, it’s Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch. There’s even a Norwegian family. I feel bad, because they can all speak my language, at least a little, and I don’t know anything of theirs. I hate feeling pampered, like I owe something to everyone. Here they all are, bilingual, and I’m here stumbling along with my dankes and entschuldigungs. It’s my pride, I know, and it smears over everything in its putrid black haze.

But as we begin to tour the city, as we all experience things together, laugh about the city’s legends together, I begin to relax. To realize that they don’t have it all together—the Italians especially, they struggle with my language, and that heartens me. We are all new together, and few of us (except the Dutch, who seem to be fluent in everything) speak any German. I feel bonds strengthening between us, small ones because we still cannot really communicate—but then, what is language when you meet each other’s eyes and smile and laugh at what the tour guide says?

Yes, we can do this.

And I begin to realize too the beauty of the differences. The sound of the different languages sing in my ear, these varied tunes blending together into a rich harmony. Look around, look around, I tell myself, as I walk with Italians and Spaniards and French through the cobblestone streets of a German town, at how lucky you are to be alive right now. Who else gets to stand at this intersection of cultures, this gathering of people from all over, united in purpose, laughing as one under the sun?


As we leave the restaurant, the bells begin to ring. 7:00. They toll on and on, some deep fairy tune, constant like the strength of the cathedral’s old stones.

In Kansas, there was a bell tower right near our house, less than a block away. We called it the bell clock. I remember when it broke and stood silent for months on end. I mourned it. It was like the loss of a beloved friend. When they finally fixed it, I couldn’t stop smiling.

And here, now, here it is again. The bells are singing to me. The song of the bell back home mingles with the bells here, and I can almost see it, a trail of gold glory, of divine love, crossing the ocean, from home to home, and that is it:

This is home.

Home is where the heart is, they say. For me, home is where He is, and He is here. He is proving that to me in every garden I pass, in every breath of clear wind, in every delicious chocolate.

The bells ring, and I hear Him sing: I am here. I am with you.

Come home.

You’re Invited!

Something very exciting is happening here at A Glimpse of Starlight next week. *drumroll* Yep, that’s right—it’s my blog anniversary! Two years ago on September 21st I posted for the first time. Two years. That feels like a long time, a big deal. I didn’t do a first-year party last year because I was still figuring out this blogging thing and hadn’t really been introduced to the custom of celebrating blogoversaries (spelling?). This year, however, I’m super excited to celebrate with you guys.

On a side note (because I can’t refrain from noticing patterns and theorizing about them #infjproblems), it seems like a lot of people have had blog anniversaries recently, like within the last month or so. I’m wondering if it’s this time of year—maybe some people have to set up blogs for school, or maybe it’s the last hurrah of their summer? You know, those last few weeks in August when you realize that you had all things you wanted to do this summer but ohmystorms I haven’t done a single one of them let’s get going! Who knows. But I find it an interesting phenomenon.

Anyhow. On to the fun stuff. As the title says, you are invited to celebrate my blogday (like birthdays. but for blogs. it’s easier to spell than blogoversary, so we’re going with it.). The main festivity is a Q & A time with me. I’ve seen a lot of blogs do this, and while I’d love to be original, I think it’s a great idea. It’s really fun to get to know you, my awesome readers, by reading your questions, and I’ve found it delightful to get to know the blogger through their answers.

So, please comment with questions you’d like me to answer by this Saturday, the 17th, so I can get together my celebration post by the 21st.

I’m open to anything (as long as it’s respectful and appropriate, of course)—books, music, hobbies, memories, facts about me/my life, hypothetical situations, politics, religion, writing … the sky’s the limit! From random trivia to what I believe about certain issues, from life tips to future dreams—ask it all. I can’t wait to chat with you guys.

But that’s not all. I don’t want it just to be all about me. I want it to be about this blog, a huge part of which is you, my readers. You’re the reason I keep doing this, and I want to give you something on this special day. Consider it a party favor. Ideally, I would have done a giveaway but since I’ve just moved to another a continent (and since shipping stuff from Europe is expensive), it’ll have to be in the form of words. As for what kind of words, you get to pick! Please vote in the poll below about what you’d most like to see in the celebration next week.

Plus, I’m going to list some fun facts about my blog. It’s going to be awesome. Let the questions flood in, and see you then!

{Fireside Fridays} Stories That Must Be Told

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betweenshadesofgray


Can history disappear if it’s written in blood?

Some stories just need to be told. And if it’s true that every human life is a story, then all stories need to be told.

In Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys tells the stories of millions of souls, stories that are in danger of being lost. I think all of us know what Hitler did to the Jews. That atrocity has become common knowledge, a familiar stain on the tapestry of history. But we do not hear a lot about what Stalin did to the Poles and the Baltic people. Those tragedies are just as horrific.

The daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, Sepetys has a passion for telling the stories of those whose homes—and, all too often, lives—were taken by the Soviets. She does so through historical fiction, intended for young adults but read widely by adults as well. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect: All the reviews made her books sound so dark and meaningful and deep, so I wondered how they could be labeled as young adult. Then as I read the first chapter of Salt to the Sea—first person narration, sparse language, short—I questioned that this was as rich as the reviewers claimed. But when I finished the last page, heart racing, aching, sobbing, I understood.

Her use of teenaged protagonists enhances her message more than any other age could, because they are old enough to understand all the evil around them and the forces at work in their ruined worlds, and yet they are young enough to muster the strength, hope, and resilience to survive. They remember what life was like before the war, and yet they still dare to dream of a life after it.


My husband … says that evil will rule until good men or women choose to act.

In Salt to the Sea, Sepetys tells the story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the German ship carrying thousands of refugees out of the Soviets’ path of destruction. German Florian is betrayed by the Nazis; Polish Emilia is longing for home and fighting for life; Lithuanian Joana uses her medical training to care for others while trying to forget her own   scars. Their paths cross as they all attempt to board the ill-fated ship, each carrying deep secrets and facing almost impossible odds.

In Between Shades of Gray, Sepetys travels in the opposite direction as she chronicles the journey of Joana’s cousin, Lina. Taken from her home by the Soviets, she, her mother, and brother are separated from their father as they travel across all of Russia to frigid Siberia and struggle to survive in the fatal cold with little to no food.


“Just when you think this war has taken everything you loved, you meet someone and realize that somehow you still have more to give.”

I could talk about her writing—simple yet powerful, its sparseness making the painful truths she shares hit your heart harder than a hammer. I could talk about how in Salt to the Sea, she uses the first person for her four main characters and yet each sounds different and unique. There’s no question that her mechanics and style are praiseworthy. But there’s so much more to admire.

There’s the fact that she avoids the major pitfalls of young adult fiction: adults that are portrayed as weak, stupid, or non-existent; and too much romance based on emotion and physical desire. In Salt to the Sea, an elderly refugee nicknamed the Shoe Poet is, as Joana puts it, their light, their source of wisdom that they cling to and rely upon. In Between Shades of Gray, Lina’s love for her parents is beautiful, and her mother is portrayed as a heroine. While both books contain some romance, it is both clean and realistic. Both romances occur because the couples undergo incredible struggles together, and Sepetys demonstrates that while they might not have been attracted to each other had they met under normal circumstances, they grew to love each other after working together and building trust in terrifying times.

Then there are her villains. I can describe them in one word: masterful. In Salt to the Sea, she gives us a glimpse into the mind of a young Nazi sailor, Albert. Due to his ego, he ends up helping Florian, Joana, and Emilia, but his self-centered, propaganda-saturated thoughts are sickening and repulsive. That’s why he’s such an amazing villain: He makes you hate him. I was so disgusted by him that I wrote furious comments about him on my Kindle, something I’ve never done before. I’ve never felt so repelled and infuriated by a character, which is a testament to Sepetys’ talent.

In Between Shades of Gray, she twists the whole concept of villains on its head by portraying a Soviet soldier, Nicolai Kretzsky, sympathetically. As the story progresses, she reveals his humanity, his compassion for the prisoners that he is too afraid to show, and ultimately, his hatred of himself. The pain of his own story as a half-Pole rejected by the other Soviet soldiers and the despair he feels at what he has become pierced me. All villains are, at their hearts, humans.


War had bled the color from everything, leaving nothing behind but a storm of gray.

So, maybe you want to read this story now. Maybe you feel the pull of great writing and beautiful stories, of unforgettable characters and ringing truths.

Don’t give in.  Don’t read these books.

Why? Because they hurt. These stories hurt. They are dark and painful and horrifying. I am not exaggerating in this: Not everyone could handle them. The atrocities Sepetys recounts with brutal honesty are sickening. The sufferings endured by the Baltic people are gut-wrenching. The tragedy of the sinking of the Wilhem Gustloff is horrific.

I closed both books feeling shaken, shattered. I felt a deep sob bottled in my chest, too large and too raw to be let loose. These kinds of things really happened in our world? Less than a hundred years ago? In the continent in which I know live? Dear God, why?

But it wasn’t despair. Had the stories ended in the hopelessness, I would have been less shaken. What shook me is that all this did happen and still, people lived. They made it through. Furthermore, they loved. They even laughed. That there could be hope in the face of such devastation, that there could be a future in the face of such irreparable loss—that is a truth Sepetys boldly confronts too. And this truth is so bright it blinds.


Was it harder to die, or harder to be the one who survived? I was sixteen, … [imprisoned] in Siberia, but I knew. It was the one thing I never questioned. I wanted to live.

That is what resonated so deeply with me about these books: They are true. Not only that all this—the mass murders and the survivals—actually happened in history, but that it is true that humans are capable of mind-boggling evil and also incredible love and bravery. It is true of this world, too, that there is a God in control of it who can give life and love and laughter in the midst of horrible travesties and enable humans to survive unthinkable hardships.

You have to decide for yourself if you can handle the darker aspects of these novels, but if you can, and if you choose to delve in the world of Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Lina—a world of shattering brutality and brilliant courage—you will be well rewarded. Don’t let these stories be forgotten.


Every nation has a hidden history, countless stories preserved only by those who experienced them. Stories of war are often read and discussed worldwide by readers whose nations stood on opposite sides during battle. History divided us, but through reading we can be united in story, study, and remembrance. Books join us together as a global reading community, but more important, a global human community striving to learn from the past. ~ Ruta Sepetys

{Fireside Fridays} The Two Ways Books Are Magical

Open book against defocused lights abstract background

Books are magical. I think we can all agree on that. You open up the cover of a book, and you can almost see the fairy dust floating up from its pages.    The shiver down your spine when you finger a new tome or reach the climax or discover some startling revelation is much akin, I’m sure, to what you might feel if you watched Gandalf show off his dazzling fireworks. When you get sucked into another world, when you make friends with people who don’t exist (except that, of course, they do), when you are made to laugh and weep by sorcerers who weave words—what else is it but magic?

As with other things in this world, like love and friendships and sandwiches, there are different kinds of magic. One is the magic of reading alone. You know what I’m talking about: You’re lying on your bed, the door closed, book in your hands. You’ve decorated your room with posters and quotes from your favorite characters, but you don’t see those now, don’t register anything except the words flowing through you in an anthem of adventure. The world around you fades away (see? magic), and you are absorbed into the book. You are no longer reading the story, you are living it. You don’t notice it, but your face changes in reaction to the emotions the characters are feeling. The characters—what am I talking about? They are your friends now, your enemies, your acquaintances, populating your world. Your heart races during seemingly hopeless battles, and your skin prickles in mist-cloaked dungeons. You laugh out loud when that witty fellow makes a joke, and you positively beam when your sister (even though you don’t have a sister in “real” life) is happy. You throw you arms around her in joy even though you’re still lying on your bed. And you weep. You weep when your beloved friend dies, when your sister is hurt, when the little boy on the street is mistreated.

And then the magic wears off. The potency of the potion fades. You close the book. Slowly, reluctantly, you return to your room, to the world you were born into. You notice the crick in your neck from sitting in the same position too long. You hear your stomach rumbling or the screams of the kids outside your window. You’re back. But part of you isn’t. Part of you is still in the story world, and part of you will always stay there. You will always relive that adventure, always enjoy reuniting with those characters—those friends. They call this world the real world, but somehow the so-called story world has bled into reality and transformed it.

That is one kind of magic. It is a special treasure that you carry close to your heart, a haven you run to when the world seems set against you. Though others have had similar experiences, they have not shared that exact one with you. You walk among people with a glow in your heart, the secret of your adventure singing in your mind for hours, days, years after it finishes.

But there is another kind of magic. I have been exposed to it since I was little, since before I can remember, and only recently have I begun to realize what a blessing it is. Only recently have I begun to realize that it is magic, probably because it embedded itself into my veins early, and I have come to unconsciously depend on its power.

It began, as I said, before I can remember, but I’ll start with what memories I do have. One of the first is The Lupine Lady, the lady who traveled the world and lived by the sea and made the world more beautiful by planting fields of lupines—lush, stunning, every shade of purple you can imagine. I don’t know how many times my parents read that one to me. But now, whenever we see it in a store or on the shelf, we look at each other and smile.

Doesn’t sound like magic, you say. Wait. There’s more.

Skip forward a few years, and I can read now. I can read! Not very much or very well, maybe, but I can do it. But even so, my mom does a strange thing. Well, not strange to me, because I am used to it. The magic is already a part of my life. You see, though I can read, she keeps reading to me. I read to her out of my beginner book, and then we set it down and settle into the couch cushions, the stress of school forgotten. This is the best part of the day for both of us. She picks up Little House on the Prairie and picks up where we, reluctantly, let off yesterday. I am swept away to a small house under a vast sky in an age so very different from my own—much like the first magic. But this time, my mom is swept away too. With me. The minute she opens the book, it as if we grab hands and stand on the edge of a portal, prairie wind reaching through and rustling our hair. Then she reads the first words, and we are through, together, still holding hands as we watch Laura and Ma make cheese. We marvel at their ingenuity and brace ourselves against the fierce, cold winters. We discuss Laura’s jealousy of Mary and how we both have brown hair too and how we’ve felt like Laura but how she should have responded differently.

As we read and as we talk, look at us. Maybe you can see the gold threads starting to form between us, growing stronger and thicker and brighter with each word read. The letters on the page seem to float up and join the dazzling bonds that link us together forever. This magic is less of a secret and more of a celebration. It is not a glow inside one soul but a path of light between two.

When I grew older, the magic just grew and deepened. Look back on your childhood: What were its most magical hours? For me, they were with my dad, lying on my bed at night, as he read me The Chronicles of Narnia. Through two moves and many years, we journeyed with the Pevensies, with Digory and Polly, through that enchanted world I will never forget. I would beg him not to stop, and he would usually give in, finishing the chapter or starting just a little bit of the next one. Or he would say, “Well, this is the end of the chapter, so if Mr. Lewis thought it was a good place to stop, it probably is.”

Now we grin at each other when Narnia references come up and say, “Do you remember when we found out such-and-such? or when that scene happened?” I felt safe, listening to his low, strong voice, wrapped up in my blanket and in the wonder of the worlds we were walking through together. I felt loved, that he would come read to me every night that he could for years. Years. Imagine how strong those gold cords were between us after that. Together, we rejoiced when the White Witch was defeated, mourned as Reepicheep left, and laughed at Lewis’ dry humor and colorful characters (how we loved Puddleglum!). We unravelled his allegories and decided in which order we thought the books should be read.

The magic grew to include our whole family. When my dad was deployed, we kids would grab blankets and cuddle up on the floor of my mom’s room while she introduced to All of a Kind Family. The hours walking through New York City behind this bustling family of girls, learning about Jewish customs, made a fortress around us to protect us from the cold, empty place where Daddy should have been. When he came back, we continued the tradition. We debated—rather fiercely at times—whether the Little Scout was a boy or a girl in The Bee-Keeper and urged Heather and Pickett on in The Green Ember. Now we’re in Germany, but the magic has followed us, because the memories of all the adventures we’ve gone on together will never leave us. The magic will forever run from heart to heart on its gleaming path. We like to predict what will happen and stop and marvel at revelations when they occur. References to the books we’ve read together come up at dinner or during everyday conversation. When someone else mentions a family read-aloud, we look at each and grin, and the gold between us shines like the sun.

This magic is warm and strong and dazzling like the happiest smile, and as cozy and comforting and familiar as a fire on the hearth. It builds together and binds together, it strengthens and heals. You may not notice it as much as you do the first magic, but you know, painfully, when it is lacking. It runs through your days in a subtle undercurrent of peace and trickles into real life through laughter and inside jokes.

So: books are magic. Whether a treasure or a fortress, a secret or a family song, they will add beauty to your days and strength to your soul as surely as any wizard’s fireworks or concoctions.


Hey! Just a little house-keeping note: I won’t have wifi next week, so there won’t be a Fireside Fridays. However, I am scheduling one or two posts, so this place won’t be totally silent. I (obviously) won’t be able to respond to comments then, but please do leave them, and I’ll get to them when I get back! Keep on dreaming, friends.