Senior Updates IV / high school story

Thursday, July 5, 2018
Freshman year, 2014-2015: 
I was timid but overconfident. Taking 'all honors classes' (insert smug grin),  I thought I was too good for everyone; or not good enough, depending on the day. Timid because I didn't have the knowledge base that most everyone had (I had a tendency to get lost in my own head); overconfident because I believed that the way I was--which seemed stark-opposite from everyone else--was the right way, and every other way was wrong.

My beliefs weren't my own yet; they were my parents, spat-out and reiterated to fit my agenda. My agenda--acceptance, superiority, audacity? I didn't want to blend in, and maybe I didn't. But I was counting my chickens before they'd hatched; wanting to stand out because of my beliefs and convictions but not having developed them yet.

Every day I waited for something, anything, to happen that would spin me into cosmic relevance. Perhaps this is why I abandoned my best friend, the one who' been beside me every drudging day of middle school. I ate lunch with other friends, who were louder, funnier, easier to shoot the breeze with, I thought. One day at lunch a college student asked me to join her and my friends for small group on Friday. It was her sheer authenticity that persuaded me to come. The next week I went to Young Life. 

And so with one year of high school down, I'd not only survived, but grown a little more into myself in the process. That summer I participated in an online writing internship. That, coupled with my joining of Young Life, pushed me onto a path I would have never had the courage to tread before.

freshman me

Sophomore Year; 2015-2016:
I'm not sure if anyone else has ever had this feeling, but it's happened to me every new school year. It's an uneasiness as you walk into your first class of the first day. You feel different, a little lost, even, because you've spent all summer growing more into yourself and you feel as if you don't know your friends anymore and they don't know you. Over the summer I'd grown deeply in my theology  and in my confidence, particularly in the area of sharing my writing. There'd been a fire inside me, and I finally let it grow enough that it was almost visible on the outside.

First semester I took creative writing and photography, really let myself grow artistically, let myself believe that, yes, I could be an English major in college and, no, I didn't have to go to Clemson if I didn't want to. I joined the literary magazine club; it was full of a bunch of geeky misfits, and I loved it, really felt like I belonged. I had made amends with my best friend over the summer, so we ate lunch together nearly every day. Her friendship was one of the biggest blessing of this tough year.

This was the year that the idea for my current novel project came into existence. It seems silly now, when I think about it; I got the original idea from purely aesthetic inspiration, passing a tree nursery on the way to somewhere and deciding I wanted my first novel to take place in an apple orchard. I started working on it but never got that far. To this day I haven't completed a full draft because I'm still feeling out the story.

That September, I fell under some false teaching; I let someone convince me that God's opinion of me could change based on what I did, even though that idea is completely at odds with the truth of the Gospel. I got caught up in legalism, and eventually, when I figured out that I could never please God with my own actions because I am an imperfect human, I stopped trying. That winter I got depressed. It was only then I realized that depression isn't sadness; it's a slowing-down of all bodily functions, a feeling of intense apathy (oxymoron, I know) that slips into every facet of life. My only real will to live was my fear of failure and disappointing others.

But through all this, I kept going to Young Life. I went to club on Mondays and Winter Camp in January. And throughout all the apathy and dejection, my leaders kept telling me that Jesus at his very core loves me like crazy, more than I could ever imagine, and a small part of me held onto that. That summer, I had the amazing opportunity of going to Young Life camp in Colorado. When I was there, I met God in a different way than I ever had before (you can read about that experience here if you're interested). One day I was writing in my journal, tracing back where I fell into such a hopeless manner of living, and I traced it back to the September before. The realization hit me like a ton of bricks. It took courage telling my mom what had happened, but I did, and she was my rock through the whole process. I now know the Christian life is largely comprised of the practice of preaching the Gospel to yourself daily, reminding yourself of your own shortcoming and Christ's sufficiency and the grace you are given daily.

sophomore me
Junior Year; 2016-2017:
After my Colorado experience, I knew it was time for a change. I cut my hair to my shoulders, and when I walked into school I felt even more timid than I had freshman year. Looking back, I think I was afraid that I'd let myself fall victim to some false rhetoric, that it would spin me into the same downward spiral. Perhaps I was more than afraid; perhaps I was terrified. 

I stuck close to my best friend at school and to my homeschool friends; they were my rock. But besides that, I remember remaining largely inside my head. I was taking my first AP English class (which I loved) and taking more APs than I ever had in one year. It was the most rigorous academic year yet, and on top of this I had to drive myself to school every morning--let's just say I got my fair share of tardies. I was taking two history classes-- AP Euro and AP US--and as I studied political history and read political rhetoric in my English class, I began to realize that my parents' views didn't make the most sense to me. This realization was hard to face; I love and respect my parents and I would never seek to disappoint them. So I kept it to myself for the time being, gathering facts and evidence and making sure my impending party-switch was a wise idea. 

I grew intellectually this year. I really enjoyed my classes, kept working on my novel (even submitting an excerpt to the literary magazine), and I finally found a music genre that was intellectually and emotionally stimulating. I was learning about things I'd previously ignored: politics, the environment, the ugly parts of history. My underlying motivation was to search for and find the Truth--academically, religiously, emotionally.

When the winter came I found the apathy again, and it scared the hell out of me. At this time I didn't know about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), best known as seasonal depression. This time around it was coupled with anxiety. I remember sitting alone in a chair in my room, my hands clutching the seat, using every muscle in my body to keep myself grounded because I was petrified and didn't know why. I didn't know why I was feeling what I was and didn't know how to get rid of it, and I thought that if I spoke to anyone about it I'd lose their friendship. I didn't explicitly reach out to anyone during this time, but I can't stress enough how much my friends and family were there for me. I wasn't the best friend or daughter or sister during this time, but they stood by me nonetheless; they reached out to me when I closed myself in, enabled me to find the joy inside me that I didn't know was there. 

It snowed on my seventeenth birthday (which doesn't happen often where I live), and when I woke up that morning I heard my mom singing 'dancing queen.' She made chocolate chip pancakes and we walked in the snow and I was happy. Since this winter had been so awful, I grew spiritually, and I was able to feel deeper joy because I had felt deep depression. I learned that happiness is dependent on circumstance, but joy isn't. 

In the spring I toured Furman University. I was interested, knowing it was a better option for me than Clemson, but I was still skeptical. It felt a little too close to home for me. But as soon as I set foot on campus, I was shown extraordinary hospitality and authenticity from faculty, staff, and students. I knew it was a special place. The spring of my junior year was the beginning of a time in my life where everything mysteriously began to fall into place. I got my first job--nannying for a friend of a friend--over the summer, which provided me with something to do and a little income for my relatively event-less summer.

Even as things fell into the place, the summer brought its own trials--ones that I can't talk about because they aren't entirely mine to tell, but that did affect me deeply.


junior me

Senior Year; 2017-2018:
It's the year I'd been anticipating for what seemed like forever, but when it came I sort of rushed into it. I didn't feel like I was ready. There were things in my life that didn't seem to fit the theme. I'd idealized the idea too much, so when it came I was only disappointed. That's a constant struggle for me--realizing that my high expectations will never match reality because this world is fallen and imperfect, that the very dirt beneath my feet is striving for deliverance from this mess. 


This instagram post describes a lot of what the summer and fall of this year were like. My faith was tested so that I had to redefine faith in my mind. For so long faith had manifested itself in me as a feeling, but I was beginning to see that faith is not feeling, but it is an action and a choice.

When the winter came around, everything was falling into place. I was accepted to my top school and was given a scholarship; it wasn't as much as I needed, but my parents were confident that we'd make it work. So I accepted the offer, put down my deposit, and prayed we could find the rest of the money somehow. I learned to love the moment I was in, to close my eyes and memorize the feeling of joy as it rushes through me. I capture memories through feelings, like how my heart swelled when my friends sang me 'happy birthday' at midnight, how my heart beat against my rib cage when I reached the top of the mountain and saw the view, how sun rays feel on skin after months of nothing but cold, how salt water feels so cleansing when the waves slap my back. 

And then there were the more somber moments. When something is said or realized and I know that I was wrong all along; when I saw a homeless man read scripture for his church; when I realized that I'll always feel like an outsider, and that's okay.

This year was my favorite year yet. Everyone at school sort of banded together in solidarity because we realized it was our last year to be together. I did more 'typical high school things' like going to parties and dances and football games. I got to be Head Editor of the literary magazine. Oh, and that dream to be flung into cosmic relevance from freshman year? Sometime during this year, my friends and teachers began to really read my writing; they told me it was good, and I realized that all this time all I wanted was to be heard. I think I really treasured this year, lived in the moment as much as I could. I learned a huge lesson of gratitude and acceptance of reality, but I also learned to strive to be the best that I can be, to be who I was made to be. Looking back, I can't think of any regrets. I remember always having this feeling of being lost, but now I'm beginning to think that's normal. Maybe we're all lost, maybe we won't be found until it's all said and done. 

We were expecting bad weather on graduation day, but the sun was out for the entirety of the ceremony. It was a good feeling, hearing my friends scream my name from the stands when I walked. I'm so grateful for these past four years, but I can't wait to see what the future holds.

Later this month, I'm going to work at a camp out west for three weeks. I hope to keep a journal to record my experiences there, and hopefully I'll have time to write about them when I return. Then, I'll move into college! I don't know what this little blog will become during the next four years; maybe I'll write about my experiences, maybe I'll post stories and poetry, maybe I'll become too busy and stop posting altogether. But either way, I want to thank all of you for reading what I write; it means the world to me.

senior me : )

Senior Updates III

Friday, March 9, 2018

For the past month or so, I’ve been focusing on the little things: the way the sunlight comes through the window on a Saturday morning, that last glorious sip of coffee, the feel of the breeze through an open window, a quote from a book that shakes you to the core and makes you question everything for a split-second. I’ve found great power in these moments; they can carry you through something confusing or heartbreaking or inexplicable. And when you’re able to sit down at the end of a day and say to yourself this happened today, and it was good, your whole perspective shifts.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to step away and look at the big picture. But sometimes, the big picture is too much, too overwhelming, and you have to close your eyes and ponder the inherent value of the moment you are in. 

This idea is important for where I am in life, I think, because in a few months everything will be completely different. And when I look back twenty years from now, I won’t remember everything that happened, but I’ll remember people and what they said and how they made me feel; and I’ll remember the rush when that song I love came on the radio; I’ll remember the wind in my hair, driving with the windows down, the moment before everything got too complicated. 

I've realized that because the weight of college acceptances and decisions is now no longer a burden, I have the freedom to enjoy the moment. And I think that's what the Christian life should always look like, more or less, because we know that God holds our future. We know that from the beginning of time he's had thing whole thing planned out for our good and his glory, so we have the freedom to look at the beautiful little moments in life and really relish them.

MEMORIES: excerpts from my journal

01.13.18 / A late birthday celebration downtown; listening to one direction and 5SOS on the way home, screaming the lyrics that saw us through so much; reflecting on what was and welcoming what is to come

01.20.18 / my school's semi-formal, i.e. my first real dance ever. A friend did my makeup, I wore heels for the first time ever, and I felt pretty. I didn't know most of the songs, only the older ones, but the ones I did know I sang my heart out to. 

02.01.18 / "It's only two hours till you turn fourteen!"
"Well, technically, it's six hours and forty-seven minutes."

02.11.18 / a quote from spurgeon: "Jesus wants nothing of you, nothing whatsoever, nothing done, nothing felt; he gives both work and feeling. Ragged, penniless, just as you are, lost, forsaken, desolate, with no good feeling and no good hopes, still Jesus comes to you, and in these words of pity he addresses you: 'Him that cometh  to me I will in no wise cast out.' If thou believes in him, thou shalt never be confounded."

02.13.18 / "consider the lilies" (Luke 12:27)

02.14.18 / passing out valentines in physics

02.16.18 - 02.18.18 / Work Crew Weekend at Carolina Point:
- singing in the kitchen over the noise of the sanitizer
- running through the dining hall in our dish aprons while middle schoolers shout "pits, pits, pits"
- the feeling of fulfillment at the day's end: achy bones and muscles, throbbing head, full heart
- on the ride home, windows down listening to the head & the heart
02.23.18 / drove with mom and jackson; just the drive thru, but we rolled the windows down and played Ben Rector and I felt alive

02.24.18 / that saturday smell. windows open. three cups of coffee. clemson basketball on the radio while dad sleeps in his chair. writing to John Mayer

02.25.18 / sitting on the bed with jackson and rocky and laughing at every little thing. mom came and told us to be quiet and I felt seven years old again.

02.26.18 / "you know i forget how fun and nice it is just to hang out and chill and just not care about responsibility for a while"

02.27.18 / Jackson said, "don't leave, I'm lonely," so he came to my room and sat on my bed to do his homework while I studied

03.02.18 / "Remember what you will become" - Don Whitney

03.03.18 / Paterson, poetry in a movie

03.04.18 / buying a bouquet of roses for a friend and listening to vance joy's new album in the car

03.05.18 / calling poppy on the bluetooth speaker in the car and all of us singing him happy birthday

03.06.18 / "drops of jupiter" on the radio; singing "I'll make a man out of you" in ap psych

03.08.18 / riding bikes with jackson around the neighborhood, laughing at the sounds that words make

CONSUMPTION: movies, books, + albums

the things they carried, tim o'brien:
"At the hour of dusk you sit at your foxhole and look out on a wide river turning pinkish red, and at the mountains beyond, and although in the morning you must cross the river and go into the mountains and do terrible things and maybe die, even so, you find yourself studying the fire colors on the river, you feel the wonder and awe at the setting sun, and you are filled with a hard, aching love for how the world could be and always should be, but now is not."

        - 'how to tell a true war story'

paterson, starring adam driver
"Get any writing done?"
"I did a little, yeah. Working on a poem for you."
"A love poem?"
"Yeah, I guess if it's for you, it's a love poem. It's kind of inspired by our Ohio Blue Tip matches."
"Really? Does it mention the little megaphone shape the letters make?"
"Yeah, actually it does."
"How beautiful. I can't wait to read it when it's done."

nation of two, vance joy
"no matter where you've been/ jump into this water/ and you'll come out clean"
        - 'bonnie and clyde'

darlin' oh darlin', the hunts
"peace be still my darlin' / all is well my darlin' / your anxious heat is well bestowed / oh it weighs deep down deeper than you know"
        - 'peace be still'

eurus, the oh hellos
"let be what is, let be what isn't  / it's a natural world in which we're living / and if you let it alone, it will surely grow / just leave it alone, child, and let it go"
        - 'grow'

notos, the oh hellos
"and though the eons may pass as slow as the sands of an hourglass / every grain that we've counted claims that even the mountains can change"
        - 'new river'

the great minimum, tow'rs
"please come soon, Lord knows I want you to come / home is a relative term, sometimes hope is the same / as help I've learned"
        - 'the swan & the east'


I hope you enjoyed reading this little piece of my life, and I hope that you, too, will learn the power and beauty of seeing and feeling the goodness of the moment that you are in. Hold on to Hope, my friends; he's always got his arms outstretched, waiting to hold onto you.



A Letter Long Overdue

Tuesday, February 20, 2018
coffee and letters. I wish I was better at writing letters. I buy blank cards all the time!
   

I was surprised when it happened, not because of the gravity of it, but because of the ease. You flipped off the radio, said none of that’s any good, then inserted your favorite mixtape. And with a few notes you brought me from that apprehensive silence I always dwelled in, that perpetual nervousness: I love this song. We didn’t have to speak because the music spoke for us; we sang through the mountain backroads, windows down, till our throats were dry. After that, we had to be friends; there was no way I could know all the songs on that tape of yours and not be. I liked being your friend. At school we’d sit in the courtyard under the dogwood during lunch; you knew the noise and lighting of the cafeteria gave me a headache, made me doubt myself. And you loved to see me outside it all, like that day driving through the mountains. You were the mountains for me: clear, quiet air with a view.
            In the beginning we just talked about your music, like that cover of “Mr. Brightside” you liked better than the original. At first I scoffed at the thought, but then I heard it and understood; the music was clearer, slower, more poignant. Looking back now I know that the cover wasn’t better, just different, more transparent. So of course you liked it better, because of its honesty; you always hated the liars the most.
            I didn’t fall in love with you as much as I fell into the rhythm of it. Midnight phone calls from the telephone booth down the street from the apartment when the yelling from the kitchen got too loud; phone calls sitting cross-legged on the toilet lid, the spiral cord pulled under the closed bathroom door so Emma Lou wouldn’t tell Dad that I was talking to a boy; and then, that one night, a phone call from the kitchen at three a.m. while Dad screamed and threw pots and pans and nearly hit me with one. My step mom took Emma Lou and left but left me crumbling on the kitchen floor, and I thought I was a gonner, but you charged in with a double barrel shot gun—unloaded, just for show—and took me back to your place.
            And that night you kissed me like we’d done it a million times before. You kissed me because you wanted me to feel beautiful, you said, and I did. Despite my messy sweat-covered curls and tear stains on my tee-shirt, I felt beautiful because of the way you looked at me. That was the night I knew I loved you. There was no pomp and circumstance, no heart-flutters, no shooting stars or strawberry wine. Just me and you, alive, dancing in the kitchen at two a.m. with no music at all because we couldn’t wake your parents. My whole life I felt unwanted, out of place, but dancing across the linoleum in your kitchen taught me the art of living.
            Oh, God, I hated the way it ended. I don’t regret it, because with the wisdom of retrospect I know it was meant to be. But in the moment, and for years afterwards, I hated what I did to you. But, of course, because the universe finds great humor in irony, you were the reason I did it.
            You were always telling me about the greyhound busses, romanticizing them. You felt the most at home on the road; blame it on my gypsy soul, you said. But you never had the courage to pursue that feeling of aliveness. You taught me what it meant to be alive but when it came down to it you didn’t know what it meant yourself.
            After high school I worked full time at the laundromat on Lexington and 125th, got a cheap place in Harlem. You offered to let me stay with you in a safer area of town, but I wouldn’t. So one night we found ourselves screaming in the kitchen, just like Dad and my step mom, and I knew we were done. I want you to be safe, you said. And I loved you for it, but I needed to know what it was like to look over my shoulder, to value life enough to care to look over my shoulder; I needed to know how quickly it could all slip away from me.
            That next year was all rhythms, no passion: on Mondays you brought wine from the Italian restaurant where you worked, Tuesdays we ate pizza, Wednesdays were Chinese. But two months after the kitchen fight I decided to take two more jobs. I was always working so you didn’t bring wine anymore. Some nights I’d come home to find you asleep on my couch, waiting for me. I’d curl up next to you because I knew that soon I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore, wouldn’t be able to hold you whenever I wanted.
            A year after the kitchen fight, to the day, I released you. First I kissed you fiercely, brought my nose to that leather jacket you loved and memorized its smell, held you. Then I climbed in the taxi that took me to the greyhound bus station and got on the bus that took me to where I am now.
            My daughter asked about you last week. Well, not directly, but she asked about the first time I fell in love with being alive. At first, when I told her about you, she rolled her eyes, said, Mom, we’re strong independent women, not damsels in distress. I smiled, touched her shoulder, told her she was right, I was no damsel, and if I ever was in distress I didn’t know it. I told her something I’d never told anyone. It was philosophical, I thought, and I owe the idea to your memory.
            I told her that we’re only human, and there’s no shame in needing other humans to help us off the ground every once in a while. I was in a place of darkness and you carried me out. And then when we found the darkness again, because we’d grown tired of each other, I let you go. We’re human, and part of being human is letting other humans in. You were the first one I ever let in, and that was what made me feel alive.
            I’m sorry I never called or wrote until now. But I ran into an old friend yesterday who’s a friend of a friend of one of your friends, and she told me about the dementia. Early on-set, she said; no one saw it coming. And then I knew I had to write you, because I’ve cherished your memory for so long, and I thought that maybe someone should tell you our story, just in case you’ve forgotten. Because when the tunnel gets foggy and dark, as I know it will soon, you’ll need something—someone—to take your hand and pull you out. So I’m sending this letter just in case you’ve lost that feeling of aliveness that you taught me to chase. If you’ve lost it, I hope that this sparks it again, that it will grow into a flame. 

           That flame will pull you out of the darkness. 

springsteen

Monday, January 22, 2018
do you remember our first summer
how we climbed up to the attic while your parents watched reruns
and you showed me your favorite record.
you held it out to me with bony fingers,
said this is how music is s’posed to sound and I marveled at the magic,
needle carving vibrations into vinyl.

you closed your eyes as springsteen spoke to your soul.

you tapped the floor in rhythm;
the full moon and a million stars shone through the porthole window,
lit up your hair with a ghostly glow,
blond locks mingling with pale light
and it wasn’t just me and you anymore because you and music were one,
the damp dusty air thick with thunder road.

you carried around those words and notes like they were holy.

three summers later you met a girl;
she didn’t like springsteen like I did, always changed the radio without asking,
but she worshipped you, you told me.
after school you’d go to the attic.
I’d climbed the elm outside the porthole window, bring a new vinyl sometimes,
and you’d share your dreams unbridled.

then your dad’s truck sped down the driveway, gravel spinning, and didn’t come back.

your girlfriend called it off,
because you wouldn’t tell her the reason for your black eye, she said.
but that night I climbed the elm,
reenacted your favorite song,
and when you laughed, lips turning up in a sort of half-grin,
music poured out.

but we always knew springsteen would carry you away once you found the courage.

with the scream of harmonica
you found what you were looking for, redemption beneath a dirty hood
I didn’t know which was louder:
those living chords, the soundtrack to your life
or the screech of tires on tattered black asphalt and the clash of metal on metal,
seventeen summers gone in a blink.

the impulse of a dream evaporated in the miasma of blood and metal.

so I chased it for you,
six months late, graduation gown in rags in the back of this chevy,
windows down, springsteen thundering,
hightailing it out of this old tired town.
I left everything behind me except the lull of your song in my ears,
and I and the music were one.

the impulse of a dream riding fulfilled on waves of the night.

where do you take you denim?

two truths and a lie

Monday, January 15, 2018
my friend olivia tagged me in a fun exercise. it goes like this:

i write three short excerpts about my life, and you get to guess which one's the lie. 

1. i remember the days we'd pile into dad's old chevy, creaking with old age, and turn on the country station. there were a few songs we loved to sing together, "mr. mom," "when the sun goes down," "good ole boys like me." i always forgot in "mr. mom" when the line was rewind barney for the sixteenth time and when it was rewind barney for the eighteenth time, so i'd mumble that line and we'd all laugh. and even then, my eyes would gloss over when i sang the lyrics because i knew this would be a memory i wouldn't forget. heading to gradma's, we'd take the long way, turning right at the stop sign instead of left, then winding around the old country roads. on the big hill, the one next to those power lines, dad would speed down and we'd throw our hands up like we were riding a roller coaster, screaming ooohhh, the pitch of our voices climbing as we went higher on the hill. so young and so free, it was like nothing could stop us.


2. the first time we went to cade's cove in tennessee, where mom + dad had spent their honey moon years earlier, we walked down a foot path to the edge of the forest. at first i didn't see them, but when i looked into the forest at its movement, i saw: three black bear cubs and their momma bear. cameras were everywhere, tourists in awe. a man with a big camera kept leaning forward, trying to get closer.. i've always been a watcher, so i watched the bears and watched the people. caroline and will and i stood together and jackson toddled on his chubby toddler legs, stuffed barney in hand. then the man with the big camera got too close to momma's cubs, and she let out a roar. and we took off running back down the foot path; mom scooped up jackson and he cried when he dropped his stuffed barney. to this day, we haven't found it. we got back into our red venture and drove. lucky for us, dad was the man with the big camera, so we have pictures.


3. one day at grandma + grandpa's house in the country, we had a girls' day, a tea party with real tea cups. we sat around a small circular table, mom and grandma smiling because they knew this moment was special. i was young, had only had sweet iced tea before, so when i tasted the plain black tea i scowled, asked to make it sweeter. grandma pointed to the honey, farm-fresh from grandpa's bees. i took the spoon and filled the cup to the brim with honey--maybe i misinterpreted its size, or maybe i did it on purpose. either way, grandma looked at my cup, now a little tea with my honey, smiled, and said, let's get you some more. caroline laughed, and my cheeks reddened, but i was amused. i let mom put the honey in my next cup.

Tisane



THE LIE: #2

we did visit Cade's Cove and observed a momma black bear and her cubs off in the distance, but it didn't roar and dad didn't come close to it. Jackson did drop his stuffed barney, someone ran up behind our moving van to make sure we didn't forget it. 

Senior Updates II

Tuesday, January 9, 2018
What am I up to?


I'M GOING TO COLLEGE! I received my admissions decision on December 20th from Furman University, and I am now officially a member of their class of 2022! I know we hear it often, but God is so good. Furman is the only university I legitimately wanted to attend. I wrestled with God in prayer as I awaited my admissions decision, telling him I wasn't going to college at all if I didn't get into Furman or somehow wasn't able to go. I thought that if I gave him an ultimatum, things would go my way. As I got my official acceptance, I realized it had been in the cards all along.

A sweet friend of mine told me this over coffee one evening: God has everything planned out until eternity; he knows what you'll wear tomorrow, where you'll go to college, who you'll marry. This college acceptance was monumental to my human life, but merely a blip on the radar of eternity. He knows it all and I must put my trust in him.

My friend Olivia shared this quote by John Piper: Whenever your heart starts to be anxious about the future, preach to your heart and say, "no, heart. I will not exalt myself with anxiety. I will humble myself in peace and joy as I trust this precious and great promise of God: He cares for me."


I'M MAKING GREAT MEMORIES:
- hanging with friends downtown, laughing about where we'll be in ten years. Married with three kids, they joked about me. I laughed as I said, three dogs maybe, but no kids. But really, we just soaked it all in, because there's no way to know where any of us will be in ten years. We all want to make the best of right now.
- brunch celebrating a friend's birthday. how is she nineteen already?! Wasn't it just yesterday when we were playing Hungry in the field in front of the church, playing sardines while our parents were in choir practice, watching disney movies in the basement? oh how time flies.


- celebrating christmas with family: annual christmas party one night, celebrating my grandma's birthday the next, and christmas the next day. I don't have many pictures, because I was trying to relish it all.
       - I received a record player and browsed dad's old vinyls. My favorites of his are Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, and James Taylor.

- I had coffee with the lovely Grace Anne. She is a bundle of joy, a good listener, a talented and animated storyteller--both in writing and verbally-- and so much more. I love living not too far from her and hanging out as often as we can. College, here we come!

     

I MADE SOME RESOLUTIONS. I decided to exercise more, finish all my homework in the evenings, hit a weekly writing goal. But then I read this post on Jefferson Bethke's (author of Jesus > Religion and It's Not What You Think) instagram. It talks about how we should shoot for a rhythm instead of meeting every little goal. I encourage you to read it (it's not too long) and take it to heart in your goal-making process.

I TURNED EIGHTEEN!!!!! I spent the weekend at Young Life's Windy Gap January 5th-7th. My birthday was the 7th, and since we stayed up so late the night before, when the clock hit midnight my friends surprised me by singing happy birthday (I may have cried). It's weird being eighteen, but it doesn't really feel any different. What feels different is everything that comes along with being eighteen, graduating and going to college and things like that.

This past year has been my hardest: it brought me through times of darkness when all I could do was hold onto the hope that the best is yet to come. It was also my best year yet, and the one that has shaped me the most in my eighteen years on earth. I look forward to how 2018 will shape me, too.




Good things
-the smell of the fraser fur--mom's favorite--as christmas music wafts through the air
-laughing with friends, not worried about the future because of the pure sweetness of the moment
-coffee dates to escape the winter wind, smiles over the rims of mugs and talking about anything and everything
-the promise that the best is yet to come because of the goodness of God's plan and God's grace
-smiles from new friends; we've shared to much to offer nothing in passing
-the feeling of being known, understood, and loved in spite of it, both by God and friends
-hope--the thing with feathers--that gives us so much to look forward to
-Christmas movies, so familiar that we know every word, but we love them anyway
-coffee by an open fire
-a ray of winter sun that holds a glorious promise: spring is coming
-the faithfulness of God, look back at how he brought me through the fire; when a storm comes again, I will remember his grace and his plan and hold onto it with all I have

Read
the history of great things - elizabeth crane

Listening
myths and legends podcast
born to run - bruce springsteen
madman across the water - elton john
james taylor - james taylor

Reading
the invention of wings - sue monk kidd
the handmaid's tale - margaret atwood
death of a salesman - arthur miller


THANKS FOR READING.
Let me know what you're up to in the comments! I want to hear all about it!


Home

Wednesday, December 20, 2017
            Home looks different from the rear view mirror, the familiar curve of the road twisted like the grin of the Cheshire cat, the letters of the water tower reflected and contorted, almost demonic, in the light of the early morning. Hands on the wheel of your Dad’s old chevy, eyes ahead, you can’t look behind you, so you glance into the mirror; the scurry of your own eyes is unnerving. White letters on green signs are blurred into insignificance as you drive ahead and then you glance back and the green is now a cold, metallic gray. It reminds you that you’re leaving home with every trace of you, every hair that has ever fallen from your head swept into a neat pile, thrown away, forgotten—they always did try to put you in boxes.
            
           Everything is different, nothing’s the same. You’re headed to Nashville where you last heard that I was, working double shifts at a beer shack on the rough side of town. You imagine me smiling as I rest my elbows on the bar top and listen to the tales of the follies of drunk men. You can see me tying loose blonde curls—just like yours—in a knot on top of my head. In your mind, I’m wearing the t-shirt I had on when you last saw me, the one I bought in Wyoming when I was pregnant with you, with the sunset and the buffalo. In your mind, my eyes still dance with the wind and turn green in the sunlight.
            You drive all day and night, pull your truck to the side of I-26 and hang a towel over the window. You can’t afford even a night’s stay at the nearest motel six because you only have $23.50 to your name. Everything else you blew for a gift you think I’ll like: a limited-edition Victrola record player, so limited edition that the vendor said that’s a real turn table, miss, and don’t you forget it. It’s sitting in the back seat with a dingy white sheet pulled over it. Each time your almost drift to sleep, you’re jerked awake with the fear that someone’s stolen it.
            The next day’s drive should only take two hours, but your legs are stiff from driving too much and your neck feels crooked from sleep with your head leaned against the driver’s window. So you pull into the slow lane, arrive in Nashville later than planned, and don’t have time to change into the new dress and tights you bought last week. You’re an hour late, and this is a slap in the face from fate or destiny or God or whichever higher power you’re choosing to believe this week. It’s a slap in the face because the hour you arrive is the hour I’m jumping in a taxi to catch a plane to Oregon—I’ve always dreamt of owning a Volkswagen Beetle and driving it around the streets of Portland, working in a coffee shop incased in pine forests instead of a dank bar with old men.
            So as you’re looking for free parking for you truck on the rough side of Nashville, I’m turning my pocketbook upside down outside the terminal gate, rummaging through its contents for the boarding pass. I pick up each item one by one and put it back inside, turning it over again. And as I’m turning it over for the third time I realize that I left the boarding pass behind the counter of the dank bar I swore I’d never again set foot in.
            The cabbie lets me out behind your parked truck, just as shiny and blue as when your dad drove it ten years ago. You’re standing in front of the door of the bar, staring at the fake I.D. you bought last year. At this point you’ve lost all faith in everything—I can tell, because it hasn’t been too long since I’ve felt the same. So I nudge you. May I help you? You turn your head and see my dyed-brunette curls bounce. They’re cut off at my shoulders, and I’m wearing the sort of sun dress that no one would want to be caught dead in where you come from. But you look me in the eyes—ours are the same, gray and tired—and see that I’m dripping in sweat, a nervous twitch neither of us can seem to shake. And there in the middle of a sidewalk covered in cigarette butts you feel known for the very first time. And you know who I am, I can tell, but you don’t say so. Instead you shrug sheepishly, flash your I.D. towards me; this is fake, I was going to use it but now I don’t think I will.
            I smile, and when I walk into the bar the musty smell of boiled peanuts and sunset rum hits me like a ton of bricks and I am floored. My feet are glued to the ground and I can’t blink because tears are falling down my face. I don’t want to leave, I realize, and I like this dank and musty bar because it reminds me of home. I’ve never possessed the same voracious courage as you do, the willingness to stuff your world into a carry-on bag and start all over. I like home, I need home, but you’ve always been a wanderer. So when the boss pulls the boarding pass out of his apron pocket and thrusts it at me—you forgot this—I pivot and run outside to find your feet planted firmly on the sidewalk where they were before. One-way ticket to Seattle, if you leave now you can make it. You smile, take the ticket, and I turn to leave so you can’t see the tears on my face but you scream wait. You’re pulling a white dingy sheet off an old Victrola limited-edition turn table, sliding it from the truck seat onto your shaking arms, holding it out to me: a penny for your troubles, ma’am. Our eyes meet one last time and I know that you know and you know that I know that you know, so you smile again, breathe thank you and climb into your truck.

            You’re on your way to Seattle now, where I hope there’s a dream waiting to pick you up and give you wings. You’re probably sitting next to a middle-aged man with too much body hair or body odor but you don’t care. And I wouldn’t know, but I’m willing to bet that home looks different, looks better, from thirty-thousand feet in the air.

Plane ticket

Dishes

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Dishes,
they must be done,
must be done before Dad stumbles home,
stumbles home with beer.

Beer bottle in hand,
he tosses the cabbie a twenty,
twenty hours gone, now he’s back,
he’s back and fumbling.

Fumbling in the dark for keys
in his pocket, they aren’t there;
they aren’t there so he knocks,
knocks and pounds let me in.

Let me in, but the dishes are dirty,
so I meet stench of his breath,
his breath in my face whispering,
whispering did you do the dishes.

I do the dishes under rushing water,
it muffles his sighs that weigh,
weigh on my shoulders and eyelids and bones,
bones shuttering with the slam of the bedroom door.

The bedroom door,
behind it Mom lay ill,
lay ill two months past,
two months since she whispered warnings.

Warnings: don’t forget,
don’t forget to do the dishes

Senior Updates I

Saturday, November 18, 2017
What am I up to?
I FINISHED COLLEGE APP SUBMISSIONS. This was new territory for me. Both my older siblings only applied to one school and had no trouble getting in. I applied to four, all in-state, one public and three private. I'm hoping to study english and business, and both my older siblings are in engineering. There's been a weighing fear that if I do indeed study english, it won't be a useful degree, but I've prayed and prayed and I know it's what I'm supposed to do. All I have to do is wait and see what happens next.

I SPENT A WEEKEND AT THE BEACH. Boy, Kiawah is a dream. If you've never been, think private Island with spanish moss, cute houses, good food, great people; basically an Island dream. The weekend was spent with good friends, a week after a hurricane passed through (so it was pretty quiet while we were there). It was just what I needed as I was stuck in the business of first quarter. The weekend was filled with bike rides, sea shell hunts, jamming to T-Swizzle's entire Red, and havana-oo-na-nah.


I'VE WATCHED LOTS AND LOTS OF FOOTBALL. I'm not the biggest fan of the sport myself, but it's been on in my house for every hour of every weekend. It brings people together like nothing else can.

I'M AN EDITOR OF MY SCHOOL'S LIT MAG. Senior year comes with more responsibility. As an editor, I head up the reading and voting on of submissions, bake, and next semester I'll help assemble the magazine itself. It's fun, and I'm hoping it'll look good on college apps :)

I'VE ATTEMPTED NANO. I only have about 10k written on my current WIP, and I'm not beating myself up about it, because that's more than I thought I would get. Trying to juggle what I have to do and what I want to do is hard work. I can't let school take the back-burner, so I don't feel bad about only getting 10k words on my WIP. Let's face it; the only time I'll be able to participate in NaNo full-time is after I graduate college.

I SPENT A WEEKEND WITH MY GRANDPARENTS. My grandparents have some acreage out in the country a couple hours from my home, so a few weekends ago I drove down and spent a day and night with them. It was slow-living at its finest: grilling out on the deck, crossword puzzles and Stephen King over morning coffee, long walks in the woods. Sometimes, a little rest is all you need.

 

I SPENT A WEEKEND IN TENNESSEE. TN has had my heart since my family visited two Novembers ago, so I was stoked to go back this November. It was good food, worship music, and real conversations; an experience of raw humanity.




Good things
waking up to the glow of morning sunlight
warm sweaters, leggings, fuzzy socks, scrunchies
roar of the ocean water as if crashes over you, cleansing salt and sand on skin
laughter over nonsense, contagious and bubbly and pure
the smell of mountain air
standing around a campfire, singing to the King; we were strangers before but now we’re bound together eternally
golden hour sunlight
long hugs with good friends
no, really, how are you?
the gentle push from friends to do better, be better; they tell you because they care


Listening
“Kings” -- Sam Burchfield
“In the Light” -- The Lumineers
"Moving Mountains" -- The Brevet
"The Kitchen" -- Tow'rs
"Strawberry Blonde" -- Sam Burchfield
"Featherstone" -- Paper Kites
Truman -- Album by The Midwest Indies

Read
Wuthering Heights -- Emily Brontë
The Grapes of Wrath -- John Steinbeck
Their Eyes Were Watching God -- Zora Neale Hurston


Reading
And Then There Were None -- Agatha Christie


PS - we have a pup now; he's a boston terrier and his name is rocky


Blue Wooden Kitchen Table

Sunday, November 12, 2017

We never had much except mornings around the blue wooden kitchen table with meat from the neighbor’s pigs and grits from our make-shift mill. Grandma held a pen cap between her teeth, brows furrowed at the Sunday crossword. Grandpa was looking down at his latest Stephen King through thin wire glasses while he dabbed the corners of his mouth with a red and white checkered napkin. Eleven letter word for prominent, Grandma mused, and Grandpa said, Illustrious. He chuckled as Grandma hit him over the head with the rolled-up newspaper and said, I was asking Lila Jane, Hank.
            They wanted to send me to the boarding school across the state border, the one where Momma went to be a writer. On the shelf above the kitchen sink sat a jar, LJ’s school fund scrawled across the front in permanent ink. Grandpa would come home from the bank every Friday at drop a twenty in. Every month when I watched Grandpa sigh and lay his head in his hands while he paid the bills I would climb onto the countertop by the sink to get the jar and bring it to Grandpa; at first he would push it away with his tired fading hands, but then he would look up from the check book and his blue sparkling eyes would meet my hazel ones as he would reach out to cup my cheek with his palm and whisper maybe someday.     
But someday came and Grandpa collapsed on the linoleum and never woke up. I can't forget Grandma's murmurs of oh Hank oh Hank oh Hank my Hank when we lowered him into the ground the next week, how they folded up the American flag and laid it in my shaking hands because Grandma was too weak from the tears to grasp anything in her fingers.
The next morning Grandma and I sat at the blue wooden kitchen table and I skimmed Grandpa's copy of Children of the Corn. Grandma said, six-letter word for Russian peasant, originated in the Sixteenth Century and I breathed muzhik; she smiled when she tapped me on the head with the rolled-up newspaper. 
The jar on the shelf above the kitchen sink was long-empty so we replaced it with a picture of Grandpa in his uniform from the war and I rode the school bus to the local high school so we could save gas. Grandma tried to make coffee in the mornings but one day she sputtered over the words this coffee tastes like dirt, can you make it for me, Hank? So Grandma moved to the old folks home a couple towns over and I quit school and worked four jobs and made barely enough to cover Grandma's rent. 
The chairs of the blue wooden kitchen table creaked as I sat to dial the wretched numbers of the wretched man in the city apartment two states over. I’m in trouble, I said, and he recognized my voice. His words were slurred when he asked you’re not pregnant, are you. I said no, I’m not pregnant, but Grandpa’s dead and Grandma’s lost her memory and I can’t pay the rent. I got a check two weeks later, a big check made out to Lila Davis. I scoffed when I opened it because I didn’t know that girl, I was Lila Jane. But I signed the check and put it in the bank and went back to school and worked two jobs instead of four. And things got better.
           Momma had always told me hard work pays off in laughter so I grew to relish the achy feeling at the end of the day when my muscles felt like jello and little pieces of my hair were stuck to my forehead with sweat. I’d sit down to eat dinner at the cafe where I worked and smile as I ate because this was a place of unity and equality. In these walls no man had power over another. The beggar laughed with the Ivy League school girl over a song on the radio that had too many words and didn’t rhyme, and they took their coffee the same, black with two sugars.
I was taking classes at the University a couple towns over, in the same town as Grandma’s old folks home, and I’d sit and do Business Calculus at the blue wooden kitchen table after I got home. And one day a knock on the door yielded the view of a red-haired boy and some friends from the University. We need a place to stay and we heard you have extra rooms, we’ll pay rent, they said. So they sat at the blue wooden kitchen table while I changed the sheets in Grandma’s bedroom and the guest room. I told them about Grandma and every Sunday we’d take the crossword to her. Sometimes she thought the red-haired boy was Grandpa but it was okay because their laughs were the same, like honey on a buttered biscuit cooked golden brown.
A few semesters later by the exchange of golden bands the red-haired boy’s sheets became mine. We were having coffee at the blue wooden kitchen table and I was wearing his old Ghostbusters tee shirt when we got the phone call. Two weeks later Grandma was in hospice, but she had always said don’t hook me up to those machines, Lila Jane, let me go when I’m ready. So we let Grandma fall asleep and never wake up, and when we lowered her into the ground the next day it was just me and the red-haired boy there to say goodbye. He brought Sunday’s crossword and laid it on her grave, and I could hear from heaven the way Grandma rolled her tongue at the word fervent.
Two years passed and my belly was growing with the life of another human and the wretched man from two states over knocked on the door. Except now he was broke and cold, lost all his money from gambling on the Las Vegas Strip. I need a place to stay. I thought about how he didn’t come to walk me down the aisle of wildflowers when I wedded the red-haired boy, how his wedding gift was herbal tea, the only kind I didn’t like. But the red-haired boy smiled and shook my father’s hand and he stayed with us for a long while, in exchange for the money he lent to help us get by all those years ago.

He was sitting at the blue wooden kitchen table when he said it: I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. So we helped him back on his feet. He worked four jobs and rented the guest house out back, came home every night with muscles like jello and hair stuck to his forehead with sweat. And every Sunday we’d eat meat from our own pigs and grits from the mill. Little red-haired Hank ate from the spoon his Grandpa held out for him, and I whispered words to my red-haired boy as he filled out the Sunday crossword. We never had much more than that, but it was enough.

Why You Should Read The Blood Race

Thursday, August 10, 2017

This month, I had the privilege of reading Kate's debut novel, The Blood Race. It was a whirlwind, in the very best way. Genre-wise, Kate's book is a blend of sci-fi, fantasy, and contemporary. I'll be the first to say that I'm not a huge fan of sci-fi. However, The Blood Race is so well done in every way -- with a thrilling plot, complex characters, and deep themes -- that I absolutely fell in love. Read the blurb below, and if it doesn't convince you, by the end of this post you will know that you, too, absolutely have to read The Blood Race!




He’s spent his life running from who he is. She’s been trying to escape her past for 100 years… 

Born with unexplainable abilities he struggles to control, college student Ion tries desperately to integrate into his new school and finally put his dark past behind him. But after making a serious enemy, which leads to an accidental rendezvous with the mysterious old man next door— and his hauntingly beautiful but troubled young protégée Hawk, Ion realizes his life will never be normal again.

Late one evening, Hawk drags him by the hand into a closet-turned-rabbit-hole to an extra dimension, and Ion finds himself stumbling involuntarily into a secret society of training for “anomalies,” teenagers with a special set of abilities. Just like him.

As they train to become Protectors of future Earth, battling each other as well as their own demons, both Ion and Hawk begin to realize that they are far more alike than they realized. Unsettlingly so.

When the Dimension is shaken by an unthinkable betrayal, will an ancient prophecy bring Hawk and Ion together—or will a deadly threat hidden in plain sight cost them both their powers… and their lives?




Pinterest: faejackson4This plot is the perfect twist of action and introspection. One minute, an epic fight, the next a raw & poignant look into the inner depths of a character. For me, this is a perfect formula for a novel. If it's all action, I end up skimming to find the big plot points and get on with it; if it's all introspective and feely, I get bored and decided to read something else. (Raise your hand if you also have the attention span of a goldfish!) The way Kate writes is riveting and intriguing all at once. 

Kate switches perspective between the two main characters, Ion and Hawk. So just when you think you're figuring out one of their storylines, the point of view switches, and you're left wondering. The Blood Race definitely caused me to neglect some much-needed studying, but it was so worth it.



the journey is the reward
Whether or not you're male or female, young or old, The Blood Race's story will hit you hard. It's a story of two characters finding who they are meant to be, getting confused and broken in the process, and having to find a source of hope and comfort because of it. That's the basic human struggle, isn't it? This life is messy, and the characters in The Blood Race have messy lives. There's no glossing over or sugar-coating. I know if you are completely honest with yourself, you will find yourself nodding along with Kate's writing. "Preach it, Kate!" you will say. As these characters lives unwind and rebuild themselves, I'm willing to bet that you'll find a little bit of yourself in the middle of it all.


The allegorical power of this novel will knock your socks off. I was totally nerding-out towards the close of The Blood Race, because as the story came together, the real-world connections blew my mind. A good novel always makes you feel and think deeply, and that's what The Blood Race did for me. As Sensei offered the gentle wisdom of a good leader to Hawk, I was reminded of the gentle wisdom of the Father. When Hawk and Ion had to make difficult decisions, I was reminded that the leaders in my life let me make my own decisions so I can see the big picture. As Hawk accepts who she is as a Slider and what her calling means, I contemplated who I am and what my calling means. The real-life connections are endless. This is not a lazy-day read. By the end, your mind will be reeling. The Blood Race has the capacity to give you confidence in who you are and inspire you to be better all at once.




Have I convinced you get? If I have please please please hop on over to Amazon to purchase The Blood Race, available in paperback (!!!) and kindle!

 

When she’s not hermiting away in her colorfully-painted home office writing her next science fiction, passionate story-teller and adventurer Kate Emmons is probably on the road for a surf or hiking trip, listening to vinyls, or going for a power run. Emmons lives in the often-snowy hills of rugged Vermont with her husband and dog named Rocket.



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