I'm Just Saying

Merry, Merry, Merry

Merry Christmas!!!

I have said it before and I will say it again, I absolutely love Christmas with all of my heart. One of the things that I love most about Christmas is the way that my family celebrates it. lights-and-snowChristmas does not end when December 25 is over. We not only celebrate all before Christmas, but we will be celebrating this entire week as well. We’ll be spending a lot of time together and enjoying the continuation of the holiday. Everybody wears their Christmas pajamas all week long, except for when we venture out to see a movie at the theater, and we eat lots of food and make lots of messes. We’ll share our Christmas presents with one another and think of creative ways to spend each day.

For reasons I’ll never be able to quite fully explain, this year was completely magical. I believe wholeheartedly that Christmas is a time that heals, uplifts, and inspires as well as a time that teaches about what is most important. We have the opportunity to become better, to see the world differently, and to me it has always seemed as though anything I could dream or imagine was close enough to reach out and grab.

Because Christmas has always had all of these aspects, for me it has also always been a hot-chocolatetime of deep reflection. It isn’t even the aspect of the New Year that does this for me. To be perfectly honest, New Year’s has never been as exciting for me. Maybe it’s that rebellious streak in me, but I’ve always found it annoying that people spend so much time celebrating new beginnings when we all tend to just drag the year before right along with us. That is why instead of making New Year’s resolutions of new things I’ll begin doing, I always choose one thing to let go of. It could be something as big as a bad habit or something as small as a grudge.

I’ve been thinking back on this last year a lot today. Wow, has it been something!! If you had told me last Christmas all the things I’d experience this year, I’d have been completely terrified and probably laughed in your face. I’ve fulfilled lifelong dreams as well as experienced a massive amount of heartbreak. Through it all, though, I’ve learned so many lessons and hopefully I’ve become a better person.

I feel so incredibly excited for this coming year. I have quite a few things I’d like to do, the most important among them is that I’d like to move to Stratford-Upon-Avon with some friends later in the year. We’re planning on being there for two to three months most likely starting in August. I’m so incredibly excited for such a wonderful adventure!! There’s lots of planning to do to prepare for something like that, and I can’t wait.

streetI’m also very far into my latest novel and working steadily, so hopefully I can get that finished before June and onto editing and then the big P word….publishing! We’ll see how it all plays out. I’m not particularly concerned about the timeline, because I know it’ll happen soon. I want to begin trying this new thing where I believe in myself and my abilities, where I understand my talents and strive to develop them, and where I love others despite human weaknesses.

So maybe I set some resolutions after all.

I'm Just Saying

All The Things I Promised

gift boxI recently realized that on this blog of mine I have made many promises. I have said I would keep you updated on things, promised posts, and now that I think about it, none of these things has ever actually happened. So today, I’m going to deliver on a few promises.

#1 – The Red Wool Package

In early December I wrote a post about a Christmas story that I was writing. I talked about how I was very excited about it and promised to keep you updated on how it all went. Well, as life often does, everything got busy very quickly thereafter. I was working crazy hours, trying to spend time with my family and enjoy the holidays, and when it was all said and done I never quite got it finished. Although this is kind of a sad follow-up, I don’t actually feel too bad about the way things turned out. You see, the whole story was basically about a man who has shut himself away emotionally from people that really care about him. And in the end, through a mysterious gift he receives at Christmas time, he is able to open himself up and receive what life has to offer. At the time I felt that if I were to shut myself away and force myself into getting that story done, then I would be missing the message of my own story. But don’t give up on it! Someday that one is going to be great.

#2 – The Here And Now

me
The here and now. What I look like in this very moment. This is the picture I accidentally took trying to take a really good one. It doesn’t get more real than this.

One of my blogging friends recently mentioned that I never talk about what is happening right now. Which is totally true. Even though my blog isn’t technically anonymous (I mean you do know my name and what I look like after all), there is still A LOT that you don’t know about me! I’ve done this for several reasons. The first of which is because I tend to be a pretty private person. I’ve never been one to post long rants about the goings on in my life on social media.

The second reason actually has to do with my religion. My religion is a gigantic part of my life, in fact it basically IS my life. There is nothing about my life that isn’t affected by my religion. Because of this, if I were to be totally, completely, 100% open and honest with you about everything that happens in my life, you’d get a lot of doctrinal commentary. This isn’t a bad thing and I’m not ashamed of my beliefs in any way. I just decided very early on that I wasn’t going to expose the nuts and bolts of what I believe to be true just to give you background on what I’m thinking that day.

But to be honest, I want to be better about sharing more of the right here and now with you.

And so, for now, these are the things I want to follow up on, the promises I’m keeping. Here is another one I’ll keep: I promise to keep my promises in the future.

I'm Just Saying

Joyful & Triumphant

Tonight, a blizzard rages outside my window. I successfully started a fire pinein our surprisingly complicated fireplace, and earlier today I enjoyed a cup of hazelnut hot chocolate.

Oh, yes, my friends. It is winter. It is Christmastime.

This time of year always leaves me with a sense of awe. Wonder. Excitement. No matter how old I get, I never fail to get swept up in the magic of the Christmas season.

Though this year, I was a little worried.

I’ve been working so much this year that Christmas spirit was hard to find at first. When this time of year is when we celebrate peace and goodwill, it was hard to deal with angry customers who were unwilling to pay for a decent gift. As much as I hate to admit it, there have been too many occasions where I simply couldn’t make “Merry Christmas” come out very sincerely.

Is this truly how the world celebrates Christmas? Is this really it? I couldn’t stop these thoughts and many others just like them. What happened to joy, peace, triumph, and anthems of praise? I just couldn’t understand where the lack of it was coming from.

So what changed?

Tonight I sit in my home surrounded by Christmas lights and a crackling fire and I’m so excited for Christmas Day that it feels like my heart will burst open.

Everything changed on Saturday, when in a very frustrating moment whenwonder and peace I was feeling hurt and rushed, a heavy, peaceful feeling came pouring over me like a tidal wave. And when this wave had passed my heart felt as though it would break with joy. And very distinctly I heard something say to me, “How much can you GIVE today?”

A little bit of remembering, my friends, and it all came back. Christmas is when we give. When we learn what it means to give. Remember that a loving Father in Heaven gave His Son, because He loves us. Remember that as you purchase your gifts and think of the joy you’ll bring to others with them, you are getting to participate in such a sacred moment.

To be able to give is a very special gift.

It means that you get the opportunity to show love. To give joy. You get the chance to put joy in a box and give to to another person. You get to give joy to your world.

A long time ago, I decided that I would measure my success in life based upon my response to the following question:

How much have you loved?

JoyAnd if I could answer this question honestly, that I had completely and totally poured out all the love in my heart into whatever I was doing, then I was a success. As I apply this to the Christmas season, it brings everything into a very special focus. In just four days I get to give presents that I’ve spent months thinking about, preparing, and getting ready. I get to watch my family members open them, see the delight on their faces, and hope they feel of my love.

So with my whole heart, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

 

I'm Just Saying

I Could Talk

lightsI have been in the blog post mood all day long. Yep. Many of you will probably identify with this. I definitely have a specific mood that clearly reads, “Write a fantastic blog post today.” And today that mood has been mine.

Much of the time when I get this mood, something curbs it. Suddenly my creative juices are just…gone. Sometimes I get so worked up about what I’m going to write or what people will say about it that I can’t even handle it and then I end up posting a meme and a post about something nonsensical.

Don’t get me wrong, those posts have been known to be awesome. Some of my funniest posts of all time, really. But today that’s really not what I’m thinking.

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I could talk with you about Christmas, and about how much I love it. I could talk about how I don’t understand the “stress of the holidays” mentality. I mean…we’ve known all year long that this was coming. Why didn’t you prepare, people??

When it comes to people being stressed out and freaked out during the holidays, I’m afraid I must quote Erin from the U.S version of The Office when she said very wisely, “I just don’t get it! I’m sorry! I just- I don’t get it!” snowy house

Here’s the way I see it. I celebrate Christmas because I’m a Christian and I love to celebrate the birth of my Savior. And if I truly am celebrating Him, then everything that I do this season is in service to others and is my offering to Him. And therefore, I do not feel stressed. I just feel love and peace. Those glorious things we’re all supposed to feel during Christmas.

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I could also talk about college. I am returning to college in January after a very long time away and…I’m a little nervous. Mostly because I’ve transferred schools and so now I feel like a freshman all over again. Which isn’t the greatest feeling ever.

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booksI could talk about my novel. It’s coming along so beautifully!! Which is the greatest news on the planet because it’s been such a long time since I’ve been able to write with such fluidity. I’m finally back into that groove of writing where I’m just really, really enjoying it.

Interestingly enough, one of the things that has contributed to this is the mentality of: is this necessary? If something isn’t necessary or at least semi-necessary to the plot, I cut it out immediately. At first I was worried that length would suffer, because I believe that length is a very essential element of a good novel, but I feel as though that part is working itself out. It’s brilliant!

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I could talk about how I got a new nephew the other day. He weighed 7 pounds 5 ounces and is 20 inches long. He’s so tiny and completely perfect. It was an incredible blessing in our family. Both he and my sister are doing very well. What an amazing reminder of what this time of year is really about.

I'm Just Saying

Snowy Days & Emma

I remember that beginning to read it was exciting to me. The words and phrases jumped off the page: the type of book where pages are uneven and they smell nice. I found it tucked away in a corner of the library of my Jr. High. I was twelve years old the first time I read Emma by Jane Austen.

emmaIt was winter time when I started, and for my book mark I used a piece of green wire that had been keeping Christmas lights held together inside their box. I remember that it took me some time to finish the novel, but I enjoyed every minute of it. There were piles of snow outside, it being Christmastime, and somehow it all fit together in a very wonderful way.

The words were small and after being lost in Emma’s story for hours my eyes would be tired in the best way. It was the first classic novel I ever read. Perhaps more than anything I remember the way that reading this story made me feel.  It made me feel beautiful, educated. Classic. It opened the door to a world that I wanted to touch.

I remember sitting in class, because at the time we had a class each day shorter than all the others which was completely devoted to reading. I was surrounded by dozens of other students and busy teachers, all lost in their own worlds, and I was wrapped in the world of Emma Woodhouse.

I had always enjoyed reading, but this experience was something else. To this day I look back at it this time in my life with a degree of fondness that I can’t really describe or hold, but I think that is one of the reasons it was so enjoyable.

If you were to ask me what my favorite book is, I will always say Pride and Prejudice with no hesitation at all. But there is something special about Emma, about the whole experience of reading it for the first time and taking a step into a completely different world than the one I’d always been surrounded by.

I knew I’d never get the experience of reading Emma for the first time again, in the middle of winter, and marking it with a piece of green wire.

 

Just Writing

The Red Wool Package

Red woolThis year I’m doing something fun. Something very fun and kind of scary and I’ve literally no idea how it’s going to turn out. All I know is that I’ve gotten this incredible idea and I have to act on it.

This year I am writing a Christmas story. The idea came to me last week and since then I’ve been deep in this idea, in this story. I’m not one to write short stories – mostly because they are actually super hard! I find myself projecting out this plot line before I realize this isn’t a novel, it’s a story with a very simple, clear message.

I’m so excited!! Right now I’m thinking that the title will be, you guessed it, The Red Wool Package. I’m hoping to have illustrations with this story eventually. The really ambitious original plan was to have it finished by Christmas, because I’m actually almost finished writing it and I’m very happy with it. I doubt that I’ll want to change it at all. If I had it finished by Christmas then I could read it to my family on Christmas Eve.

At this point I’m not sure what’s going to happen with it, but I’m very excited about the whole project. It has been a fun, exciting, and very personal experience. I will keep you updated on the progress of it!

I'm Just Saying

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

I make a lot of statements on this blog. But rarely are my statements ever incredibly strong, controversial, rude, or bossy. cold outsideToday? I’ve got something I need to say. I’m calling it. I’m about to lay my cards out on the table and take all the chips. So if you decided to scroll past this post, please come back. If you never read my blog, read it today. If you remember one thing about my blog ever in it’s history or future, remember this.

I want to talk about the holiday season. And what I want to say about it is pretty black and white and makes a lot of sense to me, so I’m not going to draw it out.

We are entering the holidays, and I’m so giddy that I can hardly stand it. That’s right, I’m 20 years old and STILL cannot wait for Christmas morning. Many of you will remember how passionately I feel about Christmas. I listen to Christmas music all year long and start planning gifts in June. We’re about to put lights on the house and the trees aren’t far away. It’s serious. (So, yes, this will not be last time this year you read about Christmas on this blog of mine.)

But what really gets at me is the War on Christmas. There is a war on Christmas, it’s a very real thing and seems to have started early this year. And guess who the commander-in-chief is?

Thanksgiving.

Like I said, I’m going to try not to draw this out. So here is what I want to say about this whole thing:

Thanksgiving and Christmas are not separate things for me. I’m not interested in the “celebrate being thankful before celebrating getting everything” mentality. Because for me, Thanksgiving Day does not end my season of Thanksgiving. It really kicks it into full swing. Christmas is the most humbling, wonderful, and grateful day of my entire year. I may be surrounded with gifts and find my lost toddler niece buried in the wrapping paper, but all I can do is sit and look at my family, hear their laughter, and wonder how we can be so infinitely blessed.

I believe in being grateful, and that doesn’t have to only be at Thanksgiving. I do not believe that Christmas takes away from Thanksgiving because I believe that they are the same, they bring us the same joy and perspective. As a Christian I celebrate Christmas as the birth of my Savior Jesus Christ. I celebrate that He came into this world to give His life for us. If that celebration isn’t an expression of gratitude for the greatest gift of all, then what is?

One of my top three favorite Christmas albums holds one of my all time favorite songs. It is a song about being Thankful. On a Christmas album. Do you see what I’m getting at here?

let us adore himI believe that at Christmas, we give gifts as acts of love. The number of presents does not equal love, the lack thereof does not equal love. We can get lost in both sides. We give gifts at Christmas because God gave us the gift of His Son. We get the unique opportunity to find something that will bring another person joy and give it to them selflessly and wonderfully.

On the receiving end, we really learn more of what it means to come unto Christ. We do so humbly, because He asks it of us. He stands with open arms, ready to receive us and all we have to do is be ready to receive Him. Christmas teaches us about true gratitude and what it really means to give and receive. Thanksgiving is a wonderful, glorious moment that begins this joyous season of gratitude and giving.

The war on Christmas was begun by the very things that it professes to fight. In telling others not to celebrate Christmas prior to Thanksgiving, are we telling them not to celebrate Christ, to not receive what we are given in love, and to not give to others in love? In focusing on gratitude only at Thanksgiving, we take away the very reason we have Christmas. In fighting about the “true meaning of Christmas” and plastering it everywhere in angry words, we lose the true meaning of Christmas.

I believe in Thanksgiving and Christmas. I believe in the whole holiday season as a time to be grateful, celebrate Jesus Christ, receive in love, and give selflessly. Don’t wait to celebrate.