Just Writing

Heartbeats

The heart is a beautiful thing.

It grows and it thrives. It lives and breathes. It breaks and it heals. When you think it has plunged into the darkness forever, you’ll find instead that it let itself break to let the light in.

It keeps beating.

In the moments you think it won’t, it keeps beating. In the moments you think it can’t. It keeps beating.  It beats when you can’t figure things out. It beats when you are confused. It beats in the lightning moments when you realize you know what you have to do. It beats in the moments when you don’t know what the future holds. And in the very best moments, it beats. You feel it pounding in your chest as the air is thick with words neither of you say.

The heart is a beautiful thing.

Over the years it teaches you so many things. It teaches you what it thrives on. It teaches you what you really want after a million mistakes. It teaches you what you really want at the end of the day. It teaches you what love looks like. And that whether it means jumping off cliffs or just taking one step at a time, it will always beat.

It keeps beating.

I'm Just Saying

Even When The Night Changes

I have a new roommate this semester named Kaleigh, and she is crazy extroverted and super wonderful. I’ve already learned so much from her. But one thing I love about her is her language. She is always saying witty things or coming up with tidbits of wisdom. starsBut one thing she says frequently has begun to stick with me, and it’s gotten me thinking. She talks all the time about “living authentically”.

For Kaleigh, living authentically means living deliberately. It means going about your life with a purpose. It means engaging in life. It means not being sorry for the way you feel or perceive things. It means being open to the idea that you might be wrong about certain things. It means being honest about the things in your heart and in your head.

I read a quote recently that said something like, “Somebody can love you with all of their feelings, but not show it with their actions.” At first, it kind of irritated me and made me wonder why Pinterest feels the need to put junk on my feed. But then I got thinking about it, and I realized it tied into a lot of other things that have been going on in my head recently.

Thoughts and feelings lead to actions. That’s the way that life works. People are always hiding the way that they feel and what they think. How many times have you heard people say that they wish they’d shown how they felt or something along those lines? Or, for that matter, that they had said it?

As a writer, I will be the very first person to admit that words are so powerful. Ironically enough, there are no words to explain how powerful words are. But if you really think about it, actions are the most powerful thing.

I love words. And I will spend countless hours pouring over them, trying to make them into the most beautiful messages I can, or remembering the spectacular and precious words I’ve been told. I love words. But there are no words that can top actions.

I got thinking about this connection between actions and feelings. It’s been on my mind a more starslot. If you feel or know something, and you do nothing about it, what does that mean? If you know something is right, and you feel it deeply, and you still don’t do it, then what’s the point? Or on the opposite side of that, if you know that something is wrong and yet you do it anyway, what is that about? What is the point of feelings, whether it be an actual feeling in your gut or this truth in your head, if they do not push us to act?

It also got me thinking about change. Because change happens with action.

What is interesting about change is that it can happen in a lot of ways. Action happens in a lot of ways. Change or action can be this huge, physical thing. Or it can also be simple. Something very small inside your soul.

It’s strange to me how, no matter how much time passes, no matter what happens, there are some things that never, ever change.

I'm Just Saying

Something Happy

When my younger sister was about three or four (give or take a year or so), she had two favorite books. I remember that I used to love to read them to her. When she was little her red hair was crazy curly and always stuck out everywhere. She constantly wore stretch pants and white t-shirts. She was the most beautiful child in the history of the world.

coverOne of her favorite books was called “Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go To Sleep” by Joyce Dunbar. It is about a little bunny named Willa who can’t go to sleep and so her big brother Willoughby tells Willa a lot of very good and wonderful things. Then they can finally go to sleep. It is such a beautiful and cute story.

And for some reason, it’s been on my mind a lot the last few days.

I have been thinking a lot about those moments right before we go to sleep, and how crucial they are. You see, my powers of introversion are very strong (which is just a dramatic way of saying that I’m CRAZY introverted) so I like to stay up late at night so that I can be alone. I know that the rest of the world is asleep and that I am more alone then than I’ll ever be. It’s when I do some of my best thinking and creating.

However, I will be the first to admit that the thoughts that you think late at night or right before you go to sleep have the potential to be weapons. In my experience, a lot of the time you shouldn’t listen to any of the things that you tell yourself past a certain time of night. Your brain can start going in a million different directions and put in you bad places. That’s just the way it is.

On the flip side, though, sometimes those are the purest hours for thinking. You aren’t distracted by everybody on the planet. Your mind isn’t drowned out by the world. It’s just you in the middle of the night. willa

It can be so powerful.

In my experience, the thoughts that you think in the middle of the night, right before you go to sleep, are either your worst nightmare or the wisest thoughts you’ll ever think. The truest, purest, most heartfelt thoughts. There really isn’t any in between.

So pay attention. Pay attention to where your heart takes you in those beautiful, vulnerable moments. It very often will guide you to the places you need to be if you let it. You’ll see.

The best part about this children’s book that I used to read to Josie is that the thing that gives Willa the most comfort, the thing that makes her excited to go to sleep just so that she can wake up in the morning, is the knowledge that Willoughby will be there in the morning. Just like always. That’s the happiest thought for her. And I love that.

Just Writing

A Different Kind of War

A Different Kind of War

It is a different kind of war we wage when it comes to love. For in finding our center of gravity we also let go of everything that ties us to the floor of certainties. We don’t realize how many puzzle pieces are missing until we find the soul who owns them. Within this completion is a sense of peace unheard of. Within this wholeness dwell the innermost truths we never dared to whisper out loud, but only dreamed we would actually feel someday. And within this orb of unheard truths we step forward together, hand in hand, heartbeats syncing. We don’t know what is around the blind corners, but nevertheless, we do not let go of each other. Because if nothing else we have discovered that the world makes no sense if we aren’t together.

It is a different kind of war we fight when it comes to love. There are monsters behind those corners, and they attack our orb of pink gold light with weapons made of shadows. But I will fight back to back with you against these attacks and the dark places, those innermost truths my weapon. And if our light sputters and we lose some of the battles, we still press forward hand in hand: always stronger together. Perhaps a day will come when I am not strong enough to fight. When thick gray fog rises to obscure the intricate ties that bind our hearts and souls together. If this should happen, please find me again, and hold me in the home of your arms. Until the beat of your heart beside my ear heals all of the broken parts and makes all of those ties even stronger.

It is a different kind of war we face when it comes to love. As we continue forward we will glimpse peaceful cities and rolling fields so vibrantly green, and perhaps we’ll jump into rivers and dry off again under brilliant rays of sun. We will not always have to fight shadows and monsters. But if a day comes when we enter a dark wood and you should lose your way, remember that I will find you. Or if you find yourself facing an impenetrable wall on all sides, know that I will not stop until I conquer the wall brick by brick. And if it should happen that you fall inside yourself, trapped at the bottom of your soul, never forget that I will always reach for you and pull you back towards the light. One day there may be problems I cannot fix. But I’ll hold you as close as I can while I fight ghosts that haunt you. And keep you safe until morning.

It is a beautiful kind of war we declare when it comes to love. And we know it isn’t a constant war, and in the end, the plenty will outweigh the famine. Perhaps there will be days when I wear a white dress that tickles my feet, and we’ll visit hilltops or orchards of apple blossoms. Or perhaps we’ll find a peaceful library with a nook containing just enough pillows. You’ll read something French and I’ll stick to the Postmodern. And the days like this will make it easier when the white turns to red, and we find ourselves in battle again.

I visited a cathedral once. And saw rows of standards taken into battle. Flags that had seen so much death, and had somehow made it home. Now they hang in places of sanctuary and God. A testament to their victory, to the preciousness of what the fight was for.

I'm Just Saying

Thoughts On Plan B

townOne of the reasons I decided to study history was because of how much it changes. The past may be set in stone, but there is so much about it that is different every single day. We discover new things, learn about new perspectives, and uncover lost truths. And through it all, we are constantly building the story and the identity of the human race.

I find it incredibly beautiful.

And one of the reasons that I am a writer is because of the same thing. I love meeting new characters and figuring out what their stories are. I love seeing their perspectives. I love being able to figure out how the words will fit together so that what I’m actually trying to say is said.

There is something I have often struggled with in writing that I have never struggled with in history. And this is the problem of originality.

I have fallen into the trap so many countless times of thinking that whatever I write has to be totally and completely unique. But the truth about literature is that this isn’t really a thing. We take elements that already exist and we create a story in the way that we wish it to be told. It is the way that we put them together and the way that we say what we need to say that makes a story different and individual.mountain

For some reason, I’ve always understood this about history but never about literature.

Do you ever look up at the stars at night and wonder? I once read something that said that whatever your mind goes to when you’re looking at the stars or the ocean is where your heart truly is. Perhaps this is true sometimes and not others, because the child in me will, every now and again, look frantically for the Big Dipper when I look at the stars and I can promise you that isn’t where my heart is.

And sometimes when we are faced with something that vast it makes us look inwards and wonder what we are in relation to it.

Can I compare to a star? What does my life truly mean in the face of the countless ones a star lives through?

The last several days have been pretty hard ones. A lot of things that I struggle with have decided to come for a visit all at once, and it has been very hard. It is in times like these when I start to question absolutely everything. I look back at posts I wrote when I was doing well and wonder how I was naive enough to have that kind of hope.

Of course, this is ridiculous. But that’s what I think.

planI realized something about myself this week. And it is this: I am a Plan B-er. I am. 100% completely and thoroughly and absolutely. I am a Plan B-er.

Let me explain.

I have this picture in my head. This very special, sacred picture, of what I want my future to be like. Of what I believe would be the very best future for me. The future that would help me learn and grow, but also make me wildly happy. I have this picture. I very rarely look at it or entertain the notion of it, because if I’m being honest, too much of me doesn’t really believe it will happen. I believe in how incredible it would be. But a lot of me likes to whisper horrible things about it. That it’s a stupid picture and I should get rid of it.

And as terrible as this sounds, it is the way I’ve always been.

No matter what my dream was, and no matter how hard I believed in it or prayed about it and felt amazing in it: I always let a very horrible side of me dressed as practicality talk myself into believing that it was a joke.

And so I live my life for Plan B.

I think of the next best thing. Whatever would do its best at filling the void. Whatever would get me to the silver medal. And I plan on that. I pour over my plans for that. I tell everyone about them. And nobody ever knows that it isn’t even what I absolutely and truly want for myself.

And all the while I’m pouring over Plan B, in my deepest heart of hearts, I pray for Plan sunA. It is so deep inside my heart that sometimes I even forget about it. I just focus on Plan B and do whatever I can possibly think of to get there. And then sometimes, very late at night, when my mind is full of all the things I don’t let it think when the sun is shining, I remember Plan A.

And I say a prayer. And I hope. And I let Plan B go away until I’ll need it again the next morning.

I have realized this about myself, and I think it is something I should stop doing. Maybe you’re the kind of person who thinks that we should absolutely go for our Plan A, for our number #1 dream. And if so, you’d probably agree that this isn’t a very good mindset to have. So I’ll see what I can do about fixing that.

I'm Just Saying

10 of the Songs…

Even though I played the flute for four years, it’s been forever since I’ve picked it up. I don’t really consider myself as being musically talented. But I could never overstate how important and influential music is in my life. I don’t really understand why, but music is really a lifeline for me.

Because my parents are quite wonderful, I grew up listening to all kinds of different music. Pretty much every genre has a few memories in my past. As I’ve gotten older there are several genres that have stuck out as my favorites, but as a whole, I really enjoy every kind of music with very few exceptions.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and about some of the songs that have influenced me. Now, it would be absolutely impossible for me to make a list of all of the songs that have had an influence on me.

But there are some songs that can only be described as soul-touching. There are some songs that you hear and they just strike something inside of you that nothing else does. If I were to make a list of these songs it would be much easier, but still an incredibly long list. So I decided to narrow it down as best I could and blog about each one because these songs all hold a very special place in my heart and mean something very important to me. So, in no particular order, here are only 10 of the soul-touching songs:

heat of the moment1.”Heat of the Moment” – Asia

This song is everything good. Oh, what can I say? I went through an incredibly powerful 1980’s phase my senior year of high school and this song fulfilled every single need posed by said phase. It is a very powerful song because while delivering that unforgettably wonderful 80’s guitar that rocks everything, the lyrics are also very powerful. That’s going to be a common theme among all of these songs: the music itself says what words can’t, and the words somehow say what words normally could never touch. This song is about how sometimes we do things in the heat of the moment that may take us in places we never planned, but how it’s wonderful because the heat of the moment is a beautiful thing.

2. “One for My Baby” – Frank Sinatra

I have written countless posts about Frank Sinatra, so obviously this isn’t a surprise to anybody. There aren’t many words that I can use to accurately describe that whole situation. But if you’re curious you can visit my tag cloud and click on “Frank Sinatra”. It’ll be a good time. This is one of my favorite Frank Sinatra songs because I love how simple it is. There is that simple, lonesome piano playing and just the natural richness of his voice. And that’s really all you need for a song like this. This song is about a man whoone for my baby has just lost a great love, probably the love of his life. He’s telling a bartender about all of it, and about how the road before him is incredibly long and lonely without her. It’s completely heartbreaking, really, but something about it is also very beautiful. I love it so much.

3.”Two Steps Behind” – Def Leppard

I bet you weren’t expecting Def Leppard!! Okay, but seriously, Def Leppard was a childhood staple for me. When I was a little girl I used to drive around the farm with my dad. On summer nights he liked to drive around and check on all of the fields, just make sure everything was going well or the irrigation was doing what it needed to be doing. I loved going with him. I’d sit in the front seat of his pickup, legs barely reaching past the edge of the seat. I’d have a Pepsi in my lap, and we’d drive around together. On these excursions, we would always listen to his 80’s music and Def Leppard featured prominently. This song (particularly the acoustic version) always touched my heart. It’s actually a pretty sad love song, just about a person who will stand in the background and let their love do whatever it is they need to do. But when they are needed, they’ll be right here to help.

4.“A.M” – One Direction

I have blogged about this song before. (If you are curious click here.) But I just…wow. I honestly don’t have the words to explain this song. I honestly never thought that this would be a thing ever, ever in my life. But not only is this my favorite One Direction song, it is my favorite song. Period. My favorite song in the whole world. Out of the thousands of songs that have made me who I am, out of the thousands of songs whose lyrics I’ll never forget, this is my favorite song in the entire world. Now you can think what you want about One Direction (I personally didn’t become a fan until this last year and it’s a sad regret, but that’s a post for another time) but this song is pure gold. I really a.mdon’t understand it, but something about this song strikes a chord within me that no other song ever has. I hear this song and suddenly feel like my soul is just displayed before me in musical notes. It is about love and the uncertainties of life. It is about two people who have grown up together – which can be taken in many ways I think. It could mean that they literally grew up together, or that the experiences they have shared have made it so that they have grown older and wiser together. Either one is equally beautiful. The chorus then says, “Won’t you stay ’til the a.m? All my favorite conversation’s always made in the a.m. ‘Cause we don’t know what we’re saying.” I love these lines because I think “a.m” is a bigger metaphor. I think they are asking their love to stay until the morning, to stay with them through the darkness. To stay with them and love them even though there are things they don’t understand. Because together they are able to make it there. I could honestly write novels about this song. It’s beautiful.

5.”Caledonia” – Celtic Woman

If I’m being completely honest, sometimes I forget about this song. And then every now and again it pops back into my mind and I remember how influential it was for me. It is a traditional song, sung by many different people and groups. But the Celtic Woman version is the one that changed my life. For those of you who don’t know, “Caledonia” is the traditional name for Scotland. And this song is about somebody who is from Scotland and who has been away from it. And they are finally ready to go home. It is about how important home is, and how it often makes us who we are. And that no matter what we experience or where we go home is constant. It was interesting for me because my family history is heavily Scottish, and for reasons I couldn’t explain I’ve always felt the tie to that. A sort of pull. And the first time I heard this song and really listened to it I felt such a feeling of comfort or understanding. That the land of my ancestors is still very important to me and still very much a part of me. It was beautiful.

6.”Faithfully” – Journey

This is another one of those “driving with my dad” songs. I have countless memories of driving places together as a family and listening to this song and many others by Def Leppard and Journey. This song is a classic love song: about being faithfully in love with somebody despite the challenges that often arise. If I’m being honest there is nothing spectacular musically about this song or even the lyrics, really. It’s just a classic. It’s beautiful in its classic simplicity.

7.”Perfect” – Ed Sheeranperfect lyrics 2

I debated heavily about whether or not to include this song in this list. If I am being completely and totally transparent, I can’t even listen to this song. But there was a time in my life when it described everything flawlessly. It was like Ed somehow knew and wrote me a song. So, I actually don’t listen to this song anymore. But to deny its impact in my life would be dishonest and horrible. Because it is truly one of the most beautiful love songs ever written. If you haven’t heard it, go listen to it. There’s no way to explain it, you just have to hear it for yourself.

8.”Knock Three Times” – Tony Orlando & Dawn

Okay, I decided to put this song in because its just plain and simple fun. I grew up on this song – again, lots of driving in the car memories. But interestingly enough these ones aren’t tied to my dad but my mom. She has always loved this song and we listened to it all the time when we were driving with her. It is about a man who is in love with the woman who lives in the apartment beneath him. They don’t know each other, but he’s convinced he loves her. The chorus says, “Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me. Twice on the pipe – if the answer is no. Oh, my sweetness (knock, knock, knock) means you’ll meet me in the hallway. Hhmm twice on the pipe means you ain’t gonna show.” It’s just a fun, lighthearted song that always made life a little bit better.

9.”Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” – Il Divo

This song was originally composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber for the musical Evita. But the version by the band Il Divo was the first time I’d ever heard the song. Again I encourage you to go listen to it if you have never heard the song before. It’s incredibly beautiful. It’s about how when we go out and experience life to the fullest and do all the wonderful things we wanted to do, sometimes it can be a sad thing if we forget where we came from or the people that got us there. It can be sad if we forget who we are in the process of our accomplishments.

10.”Long Live” – Taylor Swift

long liveSimply put: I love this song. I love this song with everything in my heart. It has such a special place for me. Ever since the first time I heard this song, I’ve never been able to hear it without getting goosebumps. Honestly, I almost cry every time I hear it. I’ve heard a lot of different interpretations of the song: that she wrote it for her band, that she wrote it for her fans, for her friends. But whatever the case it is an amazing tribute to the people that you go through life with. The lines, “Long live the walls we crashed through, I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you,” always punched me right in the heart. Because there really are those people who stick with you through everything, you go through the night with you and fight all your dragons with you. And they are incredible. This song pays tribute to them.

So, there you have it. Only 10 of the songs that have touched my soul and largely made me who I am today. If you haven’t heard any of them I urge you to go and listen for yourself. Or to sit and think about what things (it could be music, movies, books) have impacted your life in a similar way. You’d be surprised by the things you remember and how you suddenly realize they made a difference.

I'm Just Saying

The Post I Have To Write

Well, here we are. At the end of 2017. And those of you who are avid blog readers have already read a thousand posts like this one. You know, the “This-Has-Been-My-Year-And-Everything-I’ve-Learned-And-This-Is-How-Awesome-Life-Is-Going-To-Be-Because-I’ve-Been-Through-Hell-But-Look-How-Much-Stronger-I-Am-And-Please-Be-Inspired-By-My-Story-Here’s-Every-Good-Thing-You’ve-Ever-Needed-To-Read-Sunshine-Rainbows-Smiles” post.

eyesI’ve been thinking a lot about my blog recently and in particular this post. As a blogger, I kind of feel obligated to post something about the changing year. But honestly, as I’ve rewritten this post about 53 times in my head, it was vastly different every time. Some were long rants about specific things, others were lists of rants about specific things.

You see when I blog I just have to hope that if I pour my soul out there somebody will read it and it might actually do something. They might say, “Hey, what I read on that blog. That was good.” And maybe some small part of their life will change or they’ll think differently or do differently. Maybe that’s too much to hope for, but it’s what I hope for when I blog.

I’ll be the first to admit that my blog hasn’t been it’s finest lately. After four years of blogging on this same blog, believe me, I understand it’s not going to be chart-topping all the time. And I’m okay with that. When I began this blog I did it to enhance my writing skills, and if any of you have been around that long (which some of you have) you’ll agree with me when I say that my writing has indeed gotten much better. I’ve considered a lot of things when it comes to my blog: waving goodbye to blogging in general, creating an entirely different blog and starting over, taking a hiatus from this blog for a while. None of which I’m going to end up doing. This is just my blog and one aspect of my writing personality is that I’m a blogger. And that’s the way it is.

So. The changing year.

Oh, what do I say about 2017? If you’d have asked me that a few days ago, or even yesterday, I’d have had a whole lot to say about 2017. None of it good, all of it very angry and bitter. But as often happens in my life, I had a pretty intense conversation with God last night. And as only He can do, He pulled it all back together and set me back on the path He wanted for me.

One thing I will say about 2017 is that it began with me taking charge of my life. I was certain it was going to be my year. I wasn’t going to waste time on things that weren’t working out, I wasn’t going to wait around for anything to happen anymore. I made loads of plans for my future, and I decided it was my time to shine.

God had other plans, of course, as He often does. All of my carefully laid plans god is goddisintegrated pretty quickly when God followed through on some incredible promises. It was, in fact, my time to shine, but in a very different way than I’d planned for myself. It’s interesting how that is often the case with God.

There was one moment, in particular, this last year that I will never forget as long as I live. In fact, there were many, but I’ll just stick to this one because it was quite powerful. I was in a very beautiful moment, the kind where you’re about to burst because everything is so perfect that you wonder how God could be THAT awesome. And I remember a very soft voice in my head saying to me, “This is so right. But it isn’t going to happen the way that you think it is.”

To be honest, I ignored that voice in the moment, and to be more honest I kind of forgot about it as time passed and darkness fell.

But as I think back on this now, I realize that this statement doesn’t necessarily only apply to that one thing in my life. I think it applies to everything God puts in our life. It can be a little frustrating when God gives us a clear answer but then the way forward is hard and rocky. It is hard when we know something is right but we have to take a different route to get there. I’ve had that experience a few times, one, in particular, was with my schooling. And there are other examples, too. It’s hard, but often times when we’re given an answer from God, we are given the answer and then told to trust Him. Almost as if He’s saying, “This is what I need you to do, so go for it. But the way forward may be different than what you’re thinking so I just need you to trust me.”

That’s a powerful life lesson right there. I’m not sure why trusting God can be so hard, but I think it’s something many of us struggle with.

soul recognitionAnother thing I’ve learned is that life is different for everybody. In the continued spirit of honesty, I’ll just go ahead and say that this all began on Pinterest. My Pinterest feed is usually a great place, I mean with One Direction all over it I’m at least 15 again and it’s incredible, but Pinterest has been doing this thing recently that’s got me all worked up. It all started when I pinned one quote about love to my board which inspires my latest novel. I had to pin it because it accurately portrays the relationship between my main characters on a level that killed me. It simply had to be pinned.

Well, Pinterest being the let-me-show-you-all-the-things-based-on-this-one-tiny-thing-you-looked-at site that it is, there were about 7,324 pins about love blasted all over my newsfeed for the next 100 years. I read quite a few of them before I felt my blood begin to absolutely boil. In fact, if I had read one more “real love is this” or “real love is supposed to be this way” quote I would’ve committed unspeakable acts against humanity.

And it made me realize something.

Life, love, or whatever you wish to apply this to, is different for everybody. And my version of “real” love is going to be different than your version of real love. True love is different across countries and cultures and what you view as a soulmate completely depends on you. (Now that I’m writing all this out maybe I should just write an open letter to Pinterest or something and call it good.) Anyway, the bottom line is that it’s all different for everybody. That’s why having a personal relationship with God is so important: so that you can do what is best for you personally. Regardless of what any person or site says is the right way to feel, think, or act. star

You know those moments when you’re looking at the ocean or the sky at night? When you look up at the blue-black and see all of those billions of crystal stars and it just takes your breath away? Those moments when, for just a split second, you are faced with the vastness of the world. Whoever or whatever comes into your mind in that moment is where your heart belongs.

I’m not sure what the new year holds. To be honest, I’m not even sure about the next week, but that’s okay. It’s a new year with new beginnings, but I’m still me. And God is still God. There are some things that never change.