The Little Girl Inside

http://instagram.com/p/icIAmsAmzW/
original drawing

 

She had always dreamed of being a dancer.

But in reality, she worked a stressful office job on the 45th floor of a skyscraper.

 

She wondered what it would be like to live in a fancy apartment somewhere in Europe, with a terrace, or at least, window boxes with flowers in them…

But instead she lived in a tiny, noisy apartment, in a not-so-nice part of the city.

 

Inwardly, she wanted to run through that meadow of wildflowers.

But she knew that as an adult, in the setting she was in, it would be an immature thing to do.

 

She wanted to buy those colorful office supplies.

But wouldn’t her co-workers roll their eyes at seeing such bright, “childish” colors?

 

And she tried so hard to justify buying that deliciously pouffy, long, twirly skirt she had found on Amazon.

But when would she wear it, except in the secrecy of her own home?

 

She was 23.

But inside of her was a little girl, wanting to be set free; calling to be let out; reaching through the bars of the cage that was her heart.

“Set me free!”

“But I can’t,” she told herself. “I’m too old. I’m an adult now; I have to act like one.”

 

…But over time, she started to give the little girl inside of her a breath of air every so often.

She drove with her best friend out to that meadow of wildflowers, and they ran through it together, made enormous flower crowns, did a little photo shoot, and had a picnic. (Her best friend had not lost her little girl, either.)

She always kept a cupboard stocked full of tea, and her grandma’s old collection of teacups were frequently put to good use.

She read books that made her feel young again—books that took her to faraway places and different eras; books in which she was an orphan living in an attic, or was walking through Pemberley, or was the oldest of the March sisters.

She had a sleepover one night with her friends, during which they watched their favorite childhood Disney movies, made homemade toffee, did karaoke, and wore their fuzziest slippers.

And at last she finally caved and bought that skirt, and wore it around her house when she was alone… and when her best friend was around (she didn’t judge her for it).

 

She figured, why not be young at heart? Why not listen to the desires of the little girl inside? Why not be who I want to be? Who ever said that adulthood has to be boring, monotone, and lifeless?

And so, by and by, the little girl inside was set free.

Fling Wide These Doors—a poem

I was dancing in my room to worship music (“Lover of My Soul” by Kari Jobe, and “Psalm 46” by Shane & Shane, to be exact) this morning. I was so overwhelmed by joy in Christ I just couldn’t help myself. I then realized how, being kind of shy, I tend to hide my true feelings sometimes around other people—I tend to stifle my joy, or keep it contained. I should feel free to let it out! Why not? Anyway, I’ve been praying that God would help me to overcome any self-consciousness over letting my joy be shown. This moment and thought process brought about this poem. :)

songs from the refinery

Notes surge; I feel my soul arise

As if carried by butterflies;

A thousand prayers to God my King—

“Oh, thanks for all You’ve done for me!”

I can’t contain this joy inside.

But sometimes, still, I tend to hide

Behind closed doors to dance this dance.

This secret heavenly romance

Must not be secret anymore.

I must fling wide this bolted door,

These walls that hide my praise, destroy;

And, though no singer, sing for joy.

Oh, Father, please, enable me

To not be shy, but set me free

To sing and dance and laugh aloud

And tell of all Your mercies, how

You’ve changed my life and given me

A new dance for these hands and feet

A new song in my mouth, to sing

The glories of You, LORD, my King,

And of all that You’ve done for me.

Unhindered, may I dance, freely.

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Inexpressible Joy at 1:00 AM

Rain falls outside the window of my new bedroom, complementing the silence of the night. I am restless, I can’t sleep. But this is a good kind of restless. Though my body can’t fall asleep, my soul is so perfectly at peace. I’ve been praying and have been absolutely IN AWE of how beautiful God is. These past few days have been so joy-filled, and the LORD has really blessed me in so many ways, that looking back on this past weekend and today, I am amazed at this God that I serve and that I get to call my Father. I am so overwhelmed by His goodness, and I must recount some of the many, many things He has shown me and that He has done or given me these past few days:

  • A new home in a new town. It’s quieter. It’s safer. It’s more peaceful. I go to sleep and hear crickets, not people yelling at each other. I wake up and hear birds twittering peacefully, as I look out the window and see the golden glow of the morning sunlight. After years of not feeling very safe, I now can rest.
  • Friendship, fellowship, and community. The other day I was able to hang out with a dear friend of mine. We bought art supplies at a craft store and then painted together, while listening to worship music and talking about what God has been doing in our lives. The next day I got to attend my small group for the first time in forever (I had been out of town over the summer) and spend time in prayer with the people in my group, and then discuss Revelation 1 and what it says about Christ. Then yesterday I was able to meet a friend in person who I had met online, and spend some time with her and her family after church. Fellowship and community are such beautiful things. I am so, so blessed.
  • I have seen the power and reality of the gospel more clearly these past few days. That though there is so much darkness in this world, Christ is stronger. So much stronger. That since I am in Christ, no weapon formed against me shall prosper. That persistence in faith in the promises of God makes the enemy flee. That Jesus is victorious and that all authority has been given to Him. I have seen struggles with fear and with sin, I have seen heavy battles over the course of my life, and I have seen God’s grace in giving me firm faith and His peace even in the midst of those battles, and persistence to keep on looking to Christ… until at last satan gives up even trying to discourage me and all I know is God’s peace. I have also seen other people’s lives completely changed—I have seen one girl, who had once been in spiritual bondage and recently was set free, get baptized yesterday. I was weeping tears of joy—people, the gospel changes lives! Jesus Christ changes lives, and the powers of hell cannot stand a chance against Him! The reality of the gospel has been so real to me these past couple days—Christ has conquered my sin, the fullness of it, and I bear it no more! In Him I am a child of God, free from condemnation and counted righteous, although I had deserved the complete opposite. Friends, trust in Jesus Christ! In Him is real, lasting Peace (the peace I feel so much right now); in Him is inexpressible and overflowing Joy! In Him is fulfillment and satisfaction and contentment! He is everything I need!
  • It’s so good to be back at my home church again. Today my former youth pastor visited our church and preached, and it was one of the best sermons I have heard.
  • And then right now, as I was lying here in bed, I was just thinking about God’s goodness to me, about all that He has done for me, and of what Jesus went through for me, because He loves me, and was overcome by the fact that He is very real (which I always have known and believed, but now I could really feel it), and that He loves me… and, more than I ever have probably felt before, I longed to just be in heaven with Him—worshiping Him, learning from Him, seeing the wounds in His hands with my own eyes—the wounds that He took for MY sake—I cannot wait for that day when I will be with Him forever.

The LORD is so good.

 

One thing have I asked of the LORD,

that will I seek after:

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD

and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 27:4, ESV

 

Forward

I wrote this poem a few months ago, and just today published it on my poetry blog (which is now called “songs from the refinery”).

songs from the refinery

As I look back on my mistakes

And feel remorse, please give me grace

To turn from these sins and repent

And not repeat such base events

But leave them all behind, and see

That life is better when I’m free

From thoughts and deeds that slow me down

Since rather quickly I must run.

To win this race, I must move toward

Christ, my Savior—ever forward.

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Untitled Novel—Chapter 1

(From the story I am working on)

______________________________________________________________________________

ONE — A Party

“God… I just can’t do this anymore.  Help.  Please.”

I lifted my tear-stained face from my dampened pillow. I must have laid on my bed for hours; through the closed curtains I could tell that the light outside was now just beginning to fade, and that it would soon be night. And that evening I and my three roommates would be hosting a party, and I knew I needed to get up and start getting the house ready for the guests. But I lacked the slightest speck of motivation to get up. I didn’t feel like getting the house ready. I didn’t feel like hosting a multitude.  I didn’t feel like being among a whole bunch of people. I felt exhausted, confused and overwhelmed with grief.

Let me explain why.

A lot was going on in my life. For the past few years, I had been dealing with a sort of depression. That depression climaxed when my sister Monica, who had been battling cancer for two years, died a few months back. Thankfully back then I was home from school for the summer, and could be with her the day she left us. Monica and I had been the best of friends growing up; we were only two years apart. And although I knew that Monica was with the Lord and happier than ever before, I missed her terribly. I wanted her back. Her illness and then death had caused a lot of stress among our family—we still loved one another, and there was still peace among us, but for so long we had felt such an absence of joy in our home. So much so that I, in a way, was happy when summer break was over, and I could leave my home and go back to college, where I had hoped the environment would be just a little bit more joyful. While it was a little more joyful at school, the stress of school on top of family situations and my sister’s death was overwhelming. My grades were not doing well at all, and this was a constant source of much agony. Last but not least, I was sick and tired of my perfectionistic conscience. The bar was set at an unattainable height; everything I did, and thought, and desired, had to be just right. I wanted to glorify God in everything I did. But I am human. I tended to set standards for myself that were not realistic. I was forgetting to give myself grace, and to put my hope in God for help to overcome my sins. I was forgetting about His mercy and grace; I was forgetting to go to Him for help and trying to overcome these sins on my own strength. And, oh, the sin I was struggling with—fear of man, which often caused me not to do what I felt I should do, or to say what I should say—overwhelmed me. I knew I needed to look to Christ and trust that in Him I was forgiven; I knew that God’s word is truth and I needed to believe it… and I was trying. But why were the doubts so hard to shake off? And why did I still struggle with guilt?

Back onto the pillow my head rested. I lay there, gazing absent-mindedly at the crack in the wall, as I mulled over these unsettling thoughts for what seemed like the millionth time. “Lord,” I whispered between quiet sobs, “I just don’t feel at peace. Everything’s just too much. And I’m trying to hold onto You, but I’m so weak. Just help me not to let go. And don’t let ME go. I need You, God. I need You.”

 

My prayer was interrupted by a knock on her door. “Come in,” I said, attempting to steady my voice.

The door opened, and in walked my roommate, Lucy. “Willow?”

I had closed my eyes, trying to give the impression that I had been napping.

“I’m sorry, did I wake you up?” apologized Lucy.

“No, you’re fine,” I answered quietly.

“Were you sleeping?”

“No…”

Lucy looked a little concerned, and sat down on the edge of my bed. “Are you doing alright? Have you been just laying on your bed in this dark room this whole time?”

I sat up and wiped my eyes with the sleeve of my sweater. “It’s just unexplainably hard right now. School is just too much. And I miss my sister. And I’m constantly plagued by doubts. I’m trying to hang onto the truth, but–” I could not say a word more…and I didn’t have to. Lucy was well familiar with what I had been going through.

Lucy put both arms around me and hugged me tightly, and I hugged her back. We sat there for a good while, saying nothing.

At last Lucy spoke. “I’m really, really sorry, Willow. Truly. And I don’t know what to say or how to comfort you. I wish I knew how to make you feel better. But I don’t. But God does. So don’t give up crying out to Him. He will help you.”

I nodded in agreement. This was only a season; things would get better eventually.

Lucy stopped hugging me, stood up, and looked at me sympathetically. “Love you, girl.”

I smiled a little. “Love you too. Thanks.”

Lucy smiled back. “I think what you need right now is some fellowship. And there’s a fix for that, as people are coming in an hour and a half. Are you able to help us get ready?”

I nodded and got up.

 

We made our way into the kitchen.

“I need to check on my banana bread,” said Lucy, opening the oven, then slamming it shut. “Nope. 20 more minutes,” she said, adjusting the oven timer.

“What needs to be done?” I asked, trying to cheer up.

“Do you want to get those cookies out and put them on a plate? And then while I make lemonade, do you want to make sure the back porch looks presentable? Maybe turn on the Christmas lights?”

“Sure.” I took a spatula and removed the freshly-baked, just-cooled sugar cookies from the two pans on the counter, and neatly arranged them on a plate.

“Alrighty, these just go on the table then?”

“Yes. Wow, that’s quite the artsy arrangement there!” said Lucy, evidently impressed by the neat little mountain of cookies I had made. I, however, thought nothing of it. “Well, thanks!” I laughed, placing my cookie-tower on the table, then went to see that the back porch looked worthy of company.

 

“Anything else?” I asked, as I returned to the kitchen.

“Not that I can think of,” said Lucy. “I think we got everything we need to do done… Sarah and Lindsey are coming home in a few minutes, and they offered to make popcorn and a couple other snacks.”

“Sweet,” I said. “I’m going to go change and get ready.”

 

I walked into my room, which was now much darker than it had been when I was in it last. I turned on the light and looked in my closet through my dresses. I took out a red one, put it on, and looked in the mirror.

“Am I feeling this?” I wondered to myself. “Is it even long enough? Nah… not really. I think I need to retire this one.” I flipped through all my other options, and found my grayish-blue dress, with thin, vertical stripes and buttons down the front. I put it on and looked at myself again. “Hmm.. yes, much better. Yup, I’m going with this one.” My gaze went up from my dress to my head, and noticed that my hair was a mess. I grabbed her hairbrush, brushed it, and twisted it into a top knot. Then I put on my oxfords, and spritzed a little perfume on myself to finish it off. I then stepped back and looked at my reflection once more, to make sure everything looked just right. It did. I was satisfied with how I looked… I looked good. I hoped it wasn’t too vain to think that about myself. Then my heart, having momentarily forgotten its sorrow, sank again as I gazed into my own eyes and sighed. My outward appearance portrayed the exact opposite of what was going on inside my head. From the outside, I looked confident and cheerful; as if I had it all together. However, I didn’t have it all together; everything seemed to be falling apart. “I can’t be with people tonight”, I thought. “I’m a wreck. I don’t want to fake being happy. I want to actually be happy.” A tear rolled down my cheek, and I turned away from the mirror. “No. Stop,” I told myself. “Why am I so gloomy all the time? Life is hard, but God is still good, and I have a choice to choose joy right now. So, tonight I am going to be happy, and enjoy myself tonight. At least I will try my best. I will set my mind on pleasant, happy things. I will trust God with my failures and my sadness, and forget them for a while, and enjoy Him through some fellowship with other people.” I felt better after this self-exhortation. “Help me with this, God,” I prayed as I left my room. “Now what grace do you have for me tonight? Help me to have eyes to see it.”

 

“Wow, you look cute, Willow!” said Lucy, when I came back. “Is that a new dress?”

“It is,” I said.

“Really cute.”

I nervously laughed a little. “Thanks.”

 

Just then, the door had opened, and Sarah and Lindsey walked in with a few grocery bags.

“Welcome home!” said Lucy.

“Thanks!” said Sarah, as she and Lindsey set their grocery bags on the counter.

“What did you get?” I asked.

“I got some candy, some nuts, some crackers, some fancy cheese, and this huge summer sausage,” Sarah said.

After washing her hands of any grocery store germs, Sarah went to knife drawer and pulled out a knife, got a cutting board, and started slicing the cheese and sausage, and arranging it on a plate, along with the crackers. Then she set it on the table along with the rest of the snacks.

“Okay, so, we’ve got candy, nuts, a cheese-and-cracker plate, cookies, lemonade, water… and the banana bread is coming…” Lucy said. “That’s good, right? Are we missing anything?”

“I don’t think so,” said Lindsey.

“Okay, awesome.”

Everything was ready, and it was only a matter of waiting until the guests came.

 

About half an hour later, the doorbell started to ring every five minutes, and the house started filling up with people.

“Willow, would you mind getting that?”  Lucy asked, as the doorbell rang just as she was taking her just-cooled banana bread out of the pans.

“Absolutely,” I said, as I hurried to the front door.

I opened it, and saw that it was my good friend Nathan.

“Oh, hi, Nathan!” I said. “Welcome!”

“Thank you!” said Nathan. “How are you doing?”

“Ehhh… better than I deserve… how about you?”

“I’m doing alright myself.” said Nathan. “That paper, though, has been a real pain in the neck. I don’t know what my thesis is yet.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said, sympathizing with him, but not quite knowing how best to reply.

“If you don’t mind my asking,” said Nathan, “So you’re better than you deserve? That’s quite true (for everyone), but what did you mean by that? …Unless you’d rather not say–”

At that moment, the doorbell rang again. I hurried again to the door, and as I unlocked it, I looked back and said, “We’ll talk.”

“Sounds good.”

I opened the door. “Hey, Quinn, Nick, Justin! Welcome.”

The three guys walked in, and I closed the door and locked it after them.

 

The the guys, along with Nathan, went to the living room and found a seat, as did I. “How are your papers coming along?” I said, trying to start a conversation.

“Quite swimmingly…” said Nathan sarcastically.

“And how about the rest of you?”

“Ehhh…” was all Justin said.

I and the others chuckled.

“I take it that it’s not going too well?” said Nathan.

“Not really.” replied Justin.

“I’ve got one page so far,” said Nick, “and no thesis.”

“Not bad,” I said. “How about you, Quinn?”

“Two pages of word-vomit.”

“Hey, that’s better than I have!” I said. “I’ve got only a couple of paragraphs. I think I have a thesis, but I hope it will work.”

 

Pretty soon, everyone had come—about 24 people in all, all of them students from my school. The house had become rather noisy, and the noise exhausted me. Don’t get me wrong, I love people and I love having them over, but 24… that is a large group of people. After a couple hours of being in the presence of a large multitude, I can become very tired and want to retreat to the solitude of my room. That, however, was not an option, as I was one of the hostesses of this party. I would have to persevere until the end.

 

I was in the kitchen, making more lemonade. The guests had finished the pitcher that was on the table, and I had heard some disappointed laments of “The lemonade’s all gone!”, and figured that I should make more. Anything to have a few precious moments of time away from the crowd.

Nathan suddenly poked his head in the doorway, like a gopher suddenly popping up from his burrow. It made me laugh.

“Hey!” he said, “Anything I can help with?”

“Well… is anything on the table running out?”

“Let me check,” he said, his head disappearing from sight as quickly as it had appeared.

He came back with a nearly empty plate of cookies. “Do you have any more cookies, or was that it?”

“Oh, we’ve got more. Do you want to put some more on the plate for me?”

“Sure!” said Nathan.

I continued squeezing lemons, as he replenished the cookies, piling them rather haphazardly on the plate, not really caring about aesthetics.

“So was the conversation boring out there?” I asked.

“No, it wasn’t,” he said. “I just thought you might need some help.”

“Well, thanks.” I said. “That’s nice of you.”

“…Also, I’m dying to finish our conversation.” he added.

“Oh.” Right now?

“So…” he said, “Let me ask again, that is, if you don’t mind my asking… how are you doing?” It wasn’t creepy of him to ask; we were good friends, and talked about all sorts of things together. I was okay with being somewhat honest with him.

“Well…” I sighed. “It’s been rather difficult lately.”

His face grew serious, and showed a hint of concern. “How so?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said, “School’s been going a bit roughly for me, and then on top of that, I miss my sister—you know, the one who died—I told you about her, right?”

“No, actually not,” he said. “I didn’t know your sister died. Wow, that’s really hard.”

“I know.” I said. “I miss her a lot.” I fought back the tears. I did not want to start crying in front of him.  That would be embarrassing.

“When did this happen?” he wondered.

“Oh, it was a while ago. Two years,” I said. “But she was my best friend growing up.” Despite my endeavors to hold tears back, they did come. I was silent as they came—no awkward sobbing—but in order to successfully avoid awkwardly sobbing, I was unable to speak for a good minute or so.

At last I was able to speak. “Anyway,” I continued, when I could steady my voice, “That, and school, and struggling with doubts about assurance of salvation, and just not feeling at peace. Yeah.” I nervously laughed, wiping my eyes again. “A lot’s going on.”

“Wow,” said Nathan. “That is a lot… I had no idea… I’m really sorry.” I could tell he felt sorry for me, but didn’t know how to properly express it.

“It’s okay…” I said, even I thought in my heart I felt the exact opposite. No. Everything was not okay. But I had given him an idea of what I was going through, and would stop there, even if I hadn’t even scratched the surface. He didn’t need to know everything.

“I wish there was something I could say,” he said after a moment’s silence, “but at least I’ll definitely be praying for you, that God would comfort you and give you peace.”

“Thanks,” I said, a little comforted.

“What are friends for?” he smiled.

Nathan by then had finished with the cookies, but stayed and kept me company as I finished making the lemonade. I changed the subject, asking him how many siblings he had, and he told me he had 10 siblings—six sisters, four brothers—and that he was the youngest of them all. Then he proceeded to tell me stories about some of the ridiculous things he and his siblings had done growing up. I laughed until I could hardly breathe. It wasn’t so much the events that took place in the stories that made them so funny, but rather the animated way in which he told them. At last I had finished the lemonade, and he and I brought it and the cookies to the table.

 

Eventually, the party wrapped up as people gradually looked at the time and realized that it would be good to go home, and left.  Soon the only guests remaining were Nathan, Justin, and Bella, another one of my good friends. We were reminiscing about our freshman year, and all the fun things we did, and lamented over how things were so much different now than they had been then.

During an awkward silence, Nathan casually checked his phone. “Oh, wow, is it really one in the morning?”

We all were a bit surprised. Time does seem short when one is having a good time.

“I should probably go…” he said, putting his phone back into his pocket.

Bella and Justin both agreed, and, as much as I love my friends, I agreed as well. I longed for the coziness of my bed. Hosting and being with people all evening had worn me out.

Lucy, Sarah, Lindsey and I followed our guests to the door. They thanked us, and left. As soon as we had the house to ourselves, I got myself to bed right away.

 

“How did you like the party?” Lucy asked, when we were in our room.

“I thought it was fun,” I said. “I’m really exhausted now.”

“Are you doing any better than earlier this evening?”

“Yes, a little.” I said.

“Good,” said Lucy.  “I’m glad.”

The lights went off. She got in her bed. The two of us lay silently in the dark. I stared up at the ceiling, pondering the events of the day. It was good to have some fellowship; it took my mind off of my sorrows and gave me some happiness.  I actually got to enjoy myself for the first time in a long time.

“Goodnight, Willow,” said Lucy.

“Goodnight.”

“I love you.” she said. “So much.”

I smiled, though she couldn’t see it. “I love you too,” I said.

I turned over on my side and closed my eyes. But my endeavors to sleep were temporarily thwarted by the vibration of my phone. I picked it up and saw I had gotten a text, from Nathan.

“Thank you for telling me about what’s been going on in your life. I’m really sorry it’s been so hard. I really hope things get better for you. Trust the LORD. He is for you, no matter what happens. Praying for you.”

I smiled.

“Thank you, Nathan.” I typed in reply. “Goodnight. See you tomorrow.”

I hit “Send”, put my phone down under my bed, and snuggled back under the covers.

Pondering the events of the day, I smiled. I realized that no matter how painful, difficult, and excruciatingly almost-unbearable life can be sometimes, God always provides reasons to smile; reasons to be thankful. Parties. Hilarious stories. Lemonade. Good friends who encourage you and point you to the truth, such as Lucy and Nathan. I sighed with contentment.

“God, You are good.”

©MadelineH. 2016, 2017. Enjoy, and please do not steal. Thanks for your cooperation.

Using Words to Portray Accurately

I’ve written stories my entire life. I still do, but now I don’t do it to simply please myself, or with the faraway dreams of “someday I will become a famous author”, but with the hope that someone, somewhere, will be delighted or encouraged by what I write. I write to be real and raw. I write to put a smile on someone’s face, or to comfort others in pain. I write to point others to the Hope in this dark world. I write to bring to life stories and characters that remain in my mind until, by writing, I set them free and introduce them to others.

I’m currently trying to write a work of fiction. I know I have a long way to go as far as attaining skill at this particular field of writing, but my hope is that the more I practice at writing, the more I observe and take in the world around me, the more I reach into the depths of my mind and retrieve memories and experiences to fit into my stories… I’ll hopefully improve slowly but surely.

How does one write fiction that deals with the harder things in life—incorporating within the story my own personal experiences of depression, fears and doubts?

How do I depict these real situations accurately, as well as the emotions and feelings that result?

And how do I do this while avoiding making the main character seem like a crybaby instead of, as I intend, a strong person who is dealing with a lot?

How do I write about the realities of dealing with loss or pain, or feeling like I don’t have the strength to live through another day, or struggling with doubting everything I have known—in a way that would cause the reader to feel along with the main character, or be able to relate… and not scoff and go, “psshh, that’s not very realistic”?

How do I write about hard things, without making them the focus of the book, thus discouraging the reader—how do I provide a balance of pain and joy?

…These are skills that I am seeking to learn as I practice writing.

This story I am working on is very loosely based on some of the things that I have been through, and how in the end, they turned out for good—so much beauty and goodness came about as a result of these difficult trials. However, before the beauty there was much pain, and I want to capture the depths of that season, how I felt, my struggles with not knowing why things were going the way they were… while knowing still that whatever happens, God is still good. As I look over what I have written, I hope that others see the story as I see see it when I read it—that others would not just pass the character off as overly emotional, but that they would see what the character is going through, and feel along with her. I hope to tell the story as realistically as possible.

In the story, Willow Dellinger is a sophomore in college. She could be doing better in school if she didn’t have to carry these burdens—the recent death of a sister, depression, health concerns, and hard struggles with unbelief. These things make life hard for her to live, and make her studies harder to accomplish… stressful events are draining. But things get better over time. Through the encouragement of friends, through experience, and learning the art of self-forgetfulness, she learns that even in the darkest days there is always a reason to take heart, a reason to be thankful, a reason to live.

I will post parts of the story on my blog later!

—Maddie

Life. — 07/14

I’ve been wanting to do a life-update post for a long time, but haven’t gotten around to it until now. So, here it is, finally!

Life these days has been good… lots of rest, which my tired body needs to heal. Lots of time outside in the country, away from the city for a while. (I love the city, but sometimes you just need to get away into nature a bit and get a change of pace.) Lots of sun (I’m starting to get a tan.) Lots of time in my hammock. Lots of time alone… sometimes it’s nice, but I’ve recently been seeing the need to be intentional about being with people more—being alone for long periods of time is never a good thing. A couple of walks, during which I would enjoy the trees, the flowers, the grassy plains, the clouds, the butterflies that would leave me when I would try to get near enough to get a picture of them…

Other than all of this, I’ve been doing a cleaning job on the weekends. It’s been a pretty okay job… it’s great when you have music to listen to. Last week I was cleaning a shower, and my arm accidentally bumped the faucet handle, and it sprayed water all over me. Thankfully I had enough time for it to mostly evaporate before people would see me all wet. Haha.

I’ve recently discovered this song, and it’s literally been on repeat until I started to grow tired of it. I think it’s pretty fun:

These days I’ve been feeling rather distracted, as I talked about a couple of posts ago. I want to wholeheartedly seek the LORD, but I so often get sidetracked, trying to find satisfaction in other things. Not that these other things are bad in and of themselves—they are good gifts created by God for us to enjoy—but when I start to put my hope in or base my identity upon these things, that’s idolatry. My constant prayer is that I would love the LORD with my whole heart, soul, and mind, and learn to enjoy His gifts rightly, enjoying Him ultimately. God is the Source of all good, truth and beauty; therefore, I should find my refreshment from the Source, not the stale, stagnant pool to which it leads. (That may be a cliché analogy, but it totally makes sense to me, so I’ll use it.) Ad Fontes! (Latin: “To the fount!”)

This gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, egg-free, happiness-free (just kidding… sort of) diet has been good, kind of hard, and very helpful. Although I REALLY miss cheese, yogurt, ice cream and butter, cutting out dairy was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I feel a lot better. I’ve been trying to eat things that don’t ferment very much in the gut (I have this list of foods that do and don’t), so yes, my diet is rather limited. However, I’m doing this so I can heal. Once my gut has healed well enough, I can start re-introducing things like brown rice and sweet potatoes (I am REALLY looking forward to that day).

What have you been up to these days?

-Maddie

Sunshine Blogger Award

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Hello everybody! I was nominated for another award… the Sunshine Blogger Award! The lovely person who nominated me is none other than Carol, who nominated me recently for the Liebster Award. Again, Carol’s blog is fun, cheerful, and, well, sunshine-y, so whoever nominated her for the award got it right. :) Go check out her blog and follow her!

Rules:

  1. Thank the person(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
  3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and/or on your blog.

 

What is the Sunshine Blogger Award?

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.

 

Carol’s questions (and my answers):

  1. When it comes to books, what’s your favorite genre to read? — Hmm… I love the Bible. :) And I do like theology books in moderation (I say “in moderation” because that’s almost all I read for the past 3 years at college.) I love classics like Pride & Prejudice, many of Louisa May Alcott’s books, and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series. (I’m only in the middle of the second book, and I am in love.)
  2. Are you a righty or lefty? — Lefty all the way.
  3. Do you scream for ice cream too, or is it only me? — I do inwardly (I’m pretty quiet), for dairy-free, sugar-free ice cream.
  4. Are you a tomboy or a girly girl? — I feel like I’m somewhere in between. I really am not a huge fan of pink… unless it’s very pale, blush pink. I do like sparkles, but not wearing them. I don’t wear makeup… I consider it a hassle to put it on and take it off, and I absent-mindedly touch my face a lot anyway. However, I am not athletic, I’m not a fan of roughing it at all (I love hotels and real bathrooms and daily showers and air-conditioning… and wi-fi). My style of clothing consists of earthy colors like olive/army green, burnt orange, all sorts of “dusty” blues, black, white, gray, plaid flannels… but I do love me a classy dress and some heels every once in a while. So yeah, definitely a bit of both.
  5. If you had to choose one, would you choose flight, mind-reading, or invisibility? — I would NOT choose mind-reading, because I care too much about what people think as it is, and it’s very enslaving… I would go for flight. I’ve always watched birds and daydreamed about what it would be like to fly, or to be able to jump off of a cliff and take flight, soaring over the depths (rather than plummeting into them). That would be so cool.
  6. Can you twitch your ears? — That would be cool, wouldn’t it. Nope.
  7. Describe yourself in three words. — Empathetic, perfectionistic, artsy.
  8. Do you prefer walking flights of stairs or taking the elevator? — Elevators, unless they are elevators to skyscrapers with over 20 floors… not a fan of all the pressure in the head. But I suppose even then I would take the elevator, because there is no way I am climbing over 20 flights of stairs.
  9. Give one silly fact about yourself (your choice). — When I was little, if anything was colored differently than it should be, I would freak out. (Face paint, for example.)
  10. Who do you look up to the most/who’s your role model? — Jesus Christ. I want to be like Him.
  11. Lastly… do you wanna build a snowman? ;D — Sure, why not? :)

 

My nominees:

(one or two of these may have already been nominated for this award…)

Shayla @ Shayla Kay

Sunshine @ Sunshine In My Soul

Colleen @ Colleen’s Cluttered Collections

Grace @ In Pursuit

Christina @ I Write To Understand

Lauren @ Simply Sweet

(IDK what her name is!) @ Shards of Epiphany

Amanda @ To Dwell And Never Leave

Sarah @ Forever Aspiring Writer

Elise @ Tree Rings

Moriah Faith @ The Damsel’s Retreat

 

My questions for you:

  1. Do you have any allergies?
  2. What do you like to do for fun?
  3. Are you creative, intellectual, or athletic (or a mixture of either)?
  4. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  5. What is one of your favorite childhood memories?
  6. If you have to eat 5 things for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
  7. Do you have any phobias?
  8. Do you prefer movies or books?
  9. How was/is today going for you?
  10. Name a favorite family tradition.
  11. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

See ya later!

— Maddie

 

 

Bullet Journaling, Round Two

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A few days ago I started actually bullet journaling. Last year I attempted to do so, but didn’t really know how to do it (it was more like a handmade Day-Timer). I’m still figuring out how to as I go, but this time I know how to use the bullet system. In many ways I’m probably deviating from the REAL way to bullet journal, but that’s okay. Mine is actually a mixture between a bullet journal/journal/my own version of Penseés (if you’ve read Blaise Pascal’s “Penseés” you’ll know what I’m talking about… basically a book to write down every random thought or interesting thing you want to remember). Anyway, without further ado, here is a sneak peek of what I have so far!

This below is the Key/Index page. The key to the different bullet-points is left, and the index is on the right, as you can see.

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Here is my calendar for the month of July. (I have a pretty uneventful month, as you may notice.)

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Below is a sample of what a day’s entry looks like.

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I like to include some fun pages, too. I have one where I can write down things that inspire me:

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Sometimes I write out interesting quotes. (I don’t remember who said this, but I didn’t come up with it)

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On the next page, I made a list of conversation questions. I’m pretty shy and sometimes have a hard time keeping a conversation going, so I made this list to help me out. Might sound corny, but sometimes I need ideas of what to say next. (Don’t worry, if I’m ever talking to you, I’m not asking questions emptily for no reason or “just to keep the conversation going”, but because I’m genuinely interested in you and your life. This is just a helpful tool to recall in those days when I’m completely tongue-tied.) :)

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Not shown:

  • A medications/exercise tracker chart
  • A list of people to pray for
  • A “quotable quotes” page
  • Journal pages I didn’t really think necessary to post :)
  • More daily entries
  • Other quotes

Ideas for “fun pages” to be added later:

  • Best moments of 2017 (at the end of the year)
  • Goals for the new year (next year)
  • “I’m thankful for…”
  • Wishlist
  • Truths to remember

 

Do you bullet journal? What are your favorite tips and tricks? I’m very new at this so I could use all the help I can get, haha.

– Maddie

This Temporary Life

I am only a sojourner on this earth; a nomad, a wanderer. This world is not my home. I have a better Home ahead of me. But so often I forget that this is the case, and I live as though what I see and sense all around me is all there is to life. And I wander off my course.

And I “need” to see how many likes I’ve gotten.

To look or act a certain way.

To do all these frivolous things just because everyone else is doing them… and if I don’t, then I’m missing out.

And then I regain consciousness.

I am only here a short while. 

I need to keep reminding myself that this world is not my home; that there is so much more than just this life; so much more than what I perceive with my senses. Life is short and fleeting. Heaven and hell are real. There is an actual war going on between God’s angels vs. Satan’s demons, and we know who will win in the end (God). We Christ-followers are called to fight against sin, against the forces of evil, and keep clinging to Christ and making His Name famous—life is a battle. My eyes have been opened to the gospel, and so many people still do not know… what is holding me back from telling them? They need to hear about Jesus. They need to be set free from the bondage of sin. Which implies that…

How I live my life matters.

The decisions I make, the words I say, and what I choose to do with my time, money, energy, resources, etc., matter.

Do I really need to buy that one thing? Will it truly make me happy?

Do I really need to check Facebook for the tenth time today?

Do I really need attention, or money, or [fill in the blank]?

Am I spending my time wisely?

Am I listening to God’s voice, in other words, obeying Scripture, and following my conscience (if in accordance with Scripture)?

Am I living intentionally? Sacrificially?

Am I living in light of eternity?

Am I living as though I believed that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He is most beautiful and worthy of my total allegiance?

Am I enjoying Him in everything I enjoy? (He is the Creator of these things, after all.) Or am I enjoying them more than Him, in an idolatrous way?

Am I living in light of the fact that someday Jesus is coming back?

Oh, may I remember to live life selflessly, intentionally, fearlessly, sacrificially, lovingly; as an alien and not a citizen of this earth, because I am a citizen of God’s Kingdom. May I not get distracted and side-tracked by the things of this earth. May I hold loosely any things of earth that God has given me, knowing that nothing earthly is eternal; these things will pass away—but the God I serve, and every soul who either will be with Him in glory, or face His eternal wrath… these are eternal. May I embrace this temporary life, but not too tightly, for it will not last forever.

 

May I live looking forward, toward my future dwelling, beyond this life, with the LORD and with His saints, for eternity.

May I love others and show them Christ, that they may share in what I have seen, and in what I will see after this life.

May I turn my focus to eternal things.

May I focus on what truly matters.

#MonthlyMusicPost — July

10 songs I’ve been enjoying lately:

1.) Beside You – Cameron James

 

2.) Your Love Is Holding Me Now – Urban Rescue. I love basically anything by Urban Rescue, really.

 

3.) It Is Finished – Dustin Kensrue

 

4.) Praise Him – The Royal Royal. This one is so fun.

 

5.) Joyful (The One Who Saves) – Benton Brown. We sing this one in church and I love it.

 

6.) Psalm 46 (Lord of Hosts) – Shane & Shane. This is one of THE most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.

 

7.) TESTIFY – NEEDTOBREATHE

 

8.) Happy – Waterdeep

 

9.) Carry My Soul – Phil Wickham

 

10.) His Mercy Is More – Matt Papa. “Our sins, they are many; His mercy is more.”

 

What have you been listening to lately?

The Liebster Award!

Hey everyone! Hope you all are doing well and that your summers are restful and enjoyable. I know mine has been! Anyway, I was recently nominated by Carol for the Liebster award (thanks, girl!). Her blog is amazing, you should follow her!

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Rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
2. Display the award on your blog.
3. Provide ten random facts about yourself (optional)
4. Nominate 5-11 bloggers who you feel deserved this award and have less than 200 followers.
5. List these rules.
6. Inform nominees.

 

Here are 10 random facts about myself:

  1.  I am allergic to gluten, dairy and sugar.
  2. One of my eyes has a larger pupil than the other one (a result of Horner’s Syndrome). Cool, huh.
  3. I am left-handed.
  4. I recently started ACTUALLY bullet journaling and I love it! Maybe I’ll post about it soon.
  5. I really, REALLY don’t like caterpillars.
  6. I am an introvert with extroverted tendencies.
  7. I am a city girl with country-girl tendencies.
  8. I love hand lettering and typography, as many of you know.
  9. I am a tea-drinker, and I can’t stand coffee.
  10. I am very shy. Meeting new people, as much as I love people, is a scary thing for me. But once I get to know whomever I am talking with I become more comfortable… but it’s a slow process. Working on it.

Now here are my nominees for the award:

Rachel @ The Joy of Rachel

Amanda @ The Pen of Amanda

Erin @ The Mind That Wanders

Jessi @ Joyfully Adventurous

Rachel @ This Sunkissed Farm

I love these girls’s blogs; you should follow them!

-Maddie

 

 

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Carnations & Peonies

I currently have these vases of peonies and carnations on my desk, and they are just so pretty and smell so good. I wish that flowers lasted forever… they’re starting to fade now. A few days ago when they were new, I took some pictures of them (some were taken with my Ōlloclip).

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God is just seriously so creative.

Intense Gratitude

My heart is so full right now. God is so good. SO GOOD.

Firstly, I’ve been thinking recently about and marveling at how much God has done in my life these past few weeks, and how much better my life has been. I have no words. Some of you who know me well have heard from me how things have been going for me recently, and those of you who don’t know me but have been reading my posts from this past spring have an idea of how hard things had been. But it’s gotten so much better since then. Praise the LORD. (So to those of you out there who are struggling so hard and don’t see any hope for the future… hang on—it WILL get better, believe me.)

  • Mentally/emotionally, I feel great—so much more joyful and hopeful; so much more at rest—I actually enjoy my life more. I wake up nearly every morning feeling feel so much happier to be alive (not that I ever wasn’t happy to be alive).
  • Faith-wise… you know, it’s always a journey, I’m always learning; I’m a sinner in need of God’s grace. I mess up, I run to Him, He shows me mercy. By His grace, I keep running, learning to hate sin and love righteousness. So things aren’t perfect in the slightest (how could they be, on this side of heaven?), but He’s been teaching me so much, and blessing me and showing Himself to me in so many ways. I’ve experienced so much more joy in Christ, and God has been answering my prayers that I would enjoy Him more (shoutout to Jonathan Edwards’s Personal Narrative for the idea to pray this… Edwards did, and I thought, good idea!).
  • Physically, I feel better. I’m still not a perfect picture of health, but I have seen improvement. A significant example of this is that my hair is growing back. About 3 weeks ago I got it cut short (at about chin-length), and since then the amount of hair I was losing slowed down to a halt. Which is a serious answer to prayer. I am convinced that the reason for hair loss was mainly intense stress, while nutrient-deficiency also was a factor. (I get enough to eat, but my body can’t absorb enough nutrients.)

Which segues into the next thing that I am SO happy about: I had an appointment with my doctor today. I had gotten so many different tests done, and during this appointment we went over the results. And—praise the LORD!—the results came back with very pleasant news. I don’t have the possible conditions that I had been wondering whether I had. There was one test I did for “cross-reactives” (foods that the body reacts to as if they were gluten, even if they are completely gluten-free things, such as dairy, potatoes, etc.), and according to the test results, the only cross-reactive that my body can’t handle is dairy, which is kind of sad. On the bright side, all the other cross-reactives were negative (which means I can have things like potatoes and brown rice again! Praise the LORD.) In short, he concluded that things look very hopeful. I can start introducing those “cross-reactives” back into my diet, and I will still have to keep taking supplements, and continue doing exercises that help stimulate the left-cerebellum and brain stem. Anyway, I am so thankful that God helped me find this doctor, because I have NEVER been helped with my Celiac/Horner’s/Traumatic Brain Injury issues to the extent that he has helped me. Ever. My life makes so much sense—how these three conditions totally build off one another and cause all the various symptoms I’ve been having. I now know why I am this way, and have so much hope and confidence that things will only get better.

Thirdly, I’m just in awe over how God has just really blessed me with the friendships He has given me. I’m in awe over the wonderful sisters that God has placed in my life ever since starting college. I have grown so much because of them, and am so, so thankful for all the ways in which they’ve cared for me, listened well, offered wisdom and encouragement, and pointed me to Christ.  God placed the right people in my life at the right time. I’m also amazed at how God brings people together in suffering, and causes something beautiful to come from something unbearably hard. Or how real friendships will not cave under failures—I know that I have failed to be loving many times, yet by God’s grace, there is forgiveness, and the friendship continues on, stronger. Community is such a beautiful thing.

God is just amazing. I can’t say it enough.

—Maddie