The Time That Is Given Us

2015-09-30-anthonydelanoix-004.jpg

One hundred and twenty-five. That’s how many days it’s been since my last post. I’ll spare the usual exclamations about how quickly time is flying by. (But seriously. How is it possible this year is close to halfway over?)

I only counted out the days because it feels like forever and I was curious as to how long forever really is. How do you measure the moments that make a life?

The weeks that have gone by have felt mostly the same. I went to work five times a week, church two or sometimes three times, met homework deadlines (some by thin margins), and didn’t get nearly enough sleep. Thanks to my English coursework, I did more writing than I had in a long while, though it’s not visible on the blog.

Within that pattern, though, change broke through. In the midst of to-do lists and deadlines came defining moments. While I was busy submitting assignments and filing paperwork for five months, my life changed in a few defining moments.

According to dictionary.com, a defining moment is “a point at which the essential nature of a character or person is revealed or identified.”

In storytelling, defining moments are no accident. Characters are positioned, trips arranged and stages set long before the moment occurs. If you’re truly perceptive, sometimes you can guess what’s coming before it grandly arrives. My favorite scenarios, though, are when the author is masterful enough to completely surprise me. A common rule is that defining moments should be both inevitable and unexpected. When we look back, we should see how everything led to this point, but when it initially occurs, we should feel a bit stunned.

One of the early defining moments of The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien is when Frodo is bequeathed the One Ring from his uncle. At first glance, this doesn’t seem terribly significant. Eccentric old uncle Bilbo leaves all his possessions to his nephew and decides to become a hermit and an author. Suddenly inheriting a home in Bag End shouldn’t rearrange Frodo’s life too terribly; after all, it’s his uncle Bilbo setting off for the unknown. As anyone vaguely familiar with the Lord of the Rings can tell you, though, this moment means more for Frodo than for Bilbo.

Frodo goes from leading an ordinary, rather unadventurous life to taking on a quest with earthshaking repercussions. His calm existence is derailed by a single object… a defining moment. The consequences of this moment are drastic, leading to many other defining moments and later causing Frodo to say, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” “So do I,” Gandalf replies. “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring) 

The time that is given us… whether that is a time of upheaval or unexciting activities.

Maybe it’s not a moment we want. Perhaps it’s one where we feel stuck and it seems like the opposite of a grand, defining moment. Maybe this instant hurts, and feels like it’s going to hurt until the end of time.

Perhaps this is a big moment and it’s terrifying. Maybe this is a decision we don’t want to make. Maybe this is a change we never asked to face.

No matter what is happening, this is the time that is given us. We don’t get to choose our own time. For better or worse, this moment is all we have to live in. This is where God has placed us. All we have to decide… Is what to do with the time that is given us.

Blog Signature

What I Learned in February and the Beginning of March

February

I sat down to write this post on the final day of February, in a few snatches of time here and there. I barely had an opening before I was pulled away, so I left my laptop in hibernation and intended to come back later that night.

It’s the early hours of March 3rd now, and it’s the first time I’ve touched my keyboard since. In a way, I can barely believe I’m even typing these words now. I’m not quite sure why I’m doing it. This time, it isn’t because I have a particular point to make, or I feel witty, or even that the blog stats are down. I think maybe it’s because I need to empty my heart, but my journal pages are already tear-soaked and inky. Maybe it’s because even though my heart feels like it’s shattering, I believe someone will understand what little bits of it I scatter here. For once, I don’t know why I’m writing a post, and I don’t have the energy to figure it out.

February 28th and then March 1st were the hardest days of my life. I can’t remember what I learned in the other 27 days of February, because they seem so distant and blurred now. Anything I do vaguely recall doesn’t feel important anymore. On February 28th, I realized my dear grandmother wasn’t going to make it through the night. And then within the first hour of March’s first day, she was gone. After fighting a terminal illness for ten years, she was called home to Heaven. I know she’s overjoyed right now; I can imagine her running down gold-paved streets, smelling the most fragrant roses and breathing deeply at last. I can hear her telling me to be happy for her, and I am relieved to know she isn’t suffering anymore. But it still hurts. It’s supposed to hurt, because I loved her so much. That’s one of the things I’ve learned, I guess.

Usually, I make a list for this type of post, but there’s another lesson: Life doesn’t fit in lists. Sometimes, the smaller things do, but the desperate, gritty moments are impossible to pin down, or even fully understand.

In the last few days, I learned that words don’t always matter. The writer in me always wants to find the perfect ones, but they don’t always exist. The night Mom-mom passed away, I don’t remember much of what was said. I just remember the family gathering around; the way we blended sorrow and hope; and the moments when someone would hold me tight when I couldn’t hold myself together. The things I really remember, the things that truly mattered, I can’t put in words. They’re too sacred and raw to be contained in a few sentences.

Until this point, I had only watched true grief from the fringes. I had been the one trying to offer comfort for others’ losses; the one unsure what to say, if anything. Now the tables have turned, and I’ve learned what it means to grieve. I have learned we all process sorrow differently. I think it’s because we all love differently; we’re all created differently, and that spills into mourning and coping and going on. Yet despite doing it uniquely, we can’t do it alone. I’ve felt like being alone too much in the last few days, and so I’ve learned not to trust my feelings in this valley. Because isolation won’t help me heal. Yes, I need solitude but I also need the circle of people I can hold onto. Grief is dark and lonely enough as it is, and being constantly alone doesn’t make it any lighter.

I’ve learned that a little gesture can go a long way. Although words aren’t everything, the right ones can help. I shared the news of my grandmother’s passing on my social media first, and the comments and messages I received helped me feel a little less alone. It’s not always a big thing; sometimes the smallest things convey the greatest love. Like a friend sending me a text to make sure I’m okay, or getting me out of the house so I can get away from everything for a while; those things have been lifelines to me.

Something else I learned is that laughter is truly medicine. I’d always liked that Proverb, because I love to laugh, but it wasn’t until this week that I considered laughter medicine. I wondered if I would ever laugh again when Mom-mom passed away, but I have. Even until my sides ached. I felt guilty the first time, but she was a lady who laughed easily and often, so the sound of laughter makes me feel close to her again. And laughing seems to heal a little bit of the fracture in my heart. I think there’s a reason the Proverb compares laughter to medicine. Medicine isn’t taken unless you’re sick; laughter is needed most when you’re hurting.

The last lesson I learned was really more of a reminder: God keeps His promises. His Word promises healing, and my mom-mom has hers at last, in a place far better than this earth. She’s living the promise of Revelation 21:4-5 now:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. (Rev. 21:4-5, KJV)

And even in my sadness, I take comfort in knowing I will see her again.

One day, when all things are new.

Blog Signature


P.S. One last thing: It probably goes without saying, but I don’t know how soon I’ll be back to posting regularly. February was an unsteady month as Mom-mom’s health declined, and I know March will be difficult for me as well. I didn’t take a formal “leave” from the blog last month, but I am for some time this month. Writing is therapeutic for me, and I do truly enjoy sharing with you here, so it may not be overly long. But I don’t have the emotional capacity to pressure myself, so I’m not setting an official timeline. I’ll look forward to sharing life again with you when I return! Thank you for being here, and reading this far. It truly means a great deal to me. ❤ — Sarah

12 (More) Reasons to Buy More Books

Buy Books Graphic 2

Last month, I shared my struggle over self-control and book shopping. As it turns out, I am not alone in this dilemma. Bookworms seem to be programmed to buy books. We’re drawn to them like kids to bouncy castles (okay, and also adults to bouncy castles.) No matter how many we have, we can always find room to love another.

Not everyone understands this craving, though, and sometimes we book lovers may feel a little guilty for our book obsessions. With that in mind, I sat down to create a list of 12 Reasons to Buy More Books. I ended up with closer to 30. Since not every excuse, I mean, reason, made the original list it seemed only fair to post the remainder now.
… All right, I’ll confess. I’m also sharing this because my to-be-read shelf is full, I have a shaky stack of books in my room, and I’m waiting for a few new arrivals. Also, I have three titles in my shopping cart right now.

But it’s okay because I can explain! Really! Here are 12 More Reasons to Buy More Books.

  1. Books are inexpensive entertainment. Yes, I probably spend a tad too much on books. Probably. However, compared to the prices of movie tickets, cable, even Netflix or the Internet, books are cheap. Where else can you travel around the world, learn a dozen new things, and meet new friends for about $10, or even less? It’s a bargain, I tell you.
  2. They take us places that travel cannot. Not only do books cost vastly less than vacation, there are some destinations that are unreachable beyond books. Even with enough funds, I couldn’t book a trip to the Shire or Narnia. Thanks to books, though, I’m still familiar with those places. I’ve had tea in Hobbiton and stood beside the Lamppost with Mr. Tumnus. And I can go back any time I want to, without packing a suitcase.
  3. Books turn any room into a home. As Roman philosopher Cicero put it, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” No matter whose house I’m in, the sight of a brimming bookcase is welcoming. Books make a room feel lived in, while looking splendid as decor. Even better, they serve double duty by being both lovely and useful. You can even use extra books as bookends for your other titles.
    Slide1
  4. Buying used books is recycling. You can help the environment and your personal library!
  5. A battery may die, but a paper book endures. Don’t worry, I’m not anti-eBooks. I use both a Nook & Kindle app. But downloading eBooks never excites me like opening a box of hard copies. And I always forget to charge my tablet until the moment I want to read. So paper books are an essential for me. Really.
  6. They smell good. Another perk of paper! Whether you like the smell of new books, old ones, or any combination of both, books have the distinct scent of possibilities, invitation and magic.
  7. Carrying books looks, and is, smart. I know we aren’t supposed to worry about impressing others. However, it’s undeniable: if you’re walking around with a book that isn’t rubbish, you will look quite studious. And you might catch the attention of fellow readers and get to have book discussions! Or at the very least, you’ll have your book to occupy you in boring situations. Yet another reason having novels on hand is wise.
  8. Reading books makes us smarter. I truly believe living isn’t complete without learning and for me, books have been the best teachers. Through countless pages, I’ve studied under experts and gained information I never would have accessed otherwise. A bonus is that books are cheaper than tuition. Unless they’re college textbooks. Because why not overcharge the broke student population, right?
  9. Dating websites are overpriced and unreliable. Books are not. Until a real Mr. Darcy (or Knightly, Thornton, etc.) shows up, I shall keep my storybook loves! I even wrote an entire post dedicated to my favorite fictional couple. It’s turned out to be my most popular post to date, which has me somewhat shocked but mostly thrilled. You can check it out here, and get a recommendation for my favorite series as well. 🙂
  10. Books hold both stories and memories. Every so often, I’ll take an old favorite from my shelf and flip through the pages. When I do this, I remember the story I loved but also the girl I was when I read it. Maybe I read it multiple times in one school year, or found comfort in those pages from a broken heart, or read it through laughing with a close friend. The stories dearest to me always have a bit of me preserved in their pages. This is why I’ll often buy a book I loved, even if I may not read it again for a while.
    Photo Aug 29, 1 24 17 AM
  11. Reading is therapeutic. True, I’ve suffered emotional trauma from books countless times. In some twisted way, those books usually become my favorites. But there’s a difference between fictional difficulties and real life conflict. When I’ve had a hard day, sometimes all it takes is an hour with a story. Escaping into a book for a little while makes the real world easier to face when I come back to it.
  12. Books make life better by letting us live several. Similar to all the places I couldn’t visit without books (#2), there are so many things I’ll never do or people I’ll never be, beyond novels. I would never trade my own life, but I’ve learned so much from all the fictional ones I have lived. I’ve rebelled against tyrants, rescued innocents, and run for my life alongside those characters. And in living their lives, I’ve come away with tools for mine. It’s doubtful I’ll ever have to bring down the Capitol or walk into Mordor, but if those characters can find the courage and determination, then I can be brave for the smaller tasks I face everyday.

If I tried hard enough, I could probably think of other reasons to encourage collecting books. I think two lists about covers it, though. (If you didn’t get to read my original 12 Reasons to Buy More Books, here is a link.) I’m in the mood to go read a book now! I need to finish it before the sequel arrives.

What are you currently reading? Which books are you planning to add to your to-be-read shelf? I’m always open to recommendations! And also book discussions. I’ve updated my contact page, so now there are even more places for us to connect and chat about stories.

Happy reading!

Blog Signature

What I Learned in January

januaryJanuary is always the month of newness. It inspires resolutions, and then demands readjustment. By the end of thirty-one days of trying to improve everything, I’m usually ready to hibernate. Forget the New Year. I need a new bedtime.

With that first month behind us now, I’m pausing to wonder where it went. What I accomplished. What I learned.

I’ll be sincere: January did not go as I intended. I had high expectations in several areas, and I didn’t live up to them. I barely wrote a few chapters in the manuscript I planned to complete; I haven’t figured out my future yet; what I want changes at the slightest notice; when I evaluate my actions from the last month, some of them make me cringe. This year already feels like it’s off to a choppy start. Outwardly, nothing drastic has happened, but I can’t shake my inner sense of unsteadiness.

I’m tempted to delete that entire paragraph, but I’m going to leave it because I promised myself something for this year: I am going to be authentic. It’s too tempting to create a perfect persona. It’s too uncomfortable to be vulnerable and real. Yet I’m learning that I connect most truly and deeply with others when there’s a sense of sincerity. In a world of photo shop and plastic, I think we want to know what’s genuine. We want to know we aren’t the only ones who feel messy and uncertain. Every intimate detail doesn’t  need to be spread. We still need a sense of privacy. But that doesn’t mean we need to pretend we’re perfect.

So in the midst of others celebrating their life-changing resolutions, their unstoppable success, and how 2015 is the best year ever, I’m happy for those people. But I’m not going to claim I’m one of them. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.

January was not the triumphant month I imagined. It had ups and downs, but I can honestly say I learned along the way. I am learning. Here is a scattering of my humble findings for last month:

  1. Even when I don’t get the results I want, there is no regret in being brave. Courage is a choice I have to make with trembling limbs and knots in my stomach, but once I do, I am free. I no longer have to wonder what would have happened if I had stepped out. Fear doesn’t deserve the final word. Faith and freedom do. It’s empowering to type those words, even though it’s a little harder to breathe seeing them.
    be brave quote birds
  2. Patience is a process. Every time I think I’ve got it mastered, I have to learn it over. And then over again.
  3. Even loners can’t always walk alone. I am an introvert through and through, and I lean towards working by myself. I’ve recently discovered the true value of teamwork, though. I used to talk a good game about it, but now I’ve played it. And on a great team, everybody really does win. I’ve been able to watch this happen in ministry, at work, and recently in writing when I joined the fantastic team of The Fangirl Initiative(Which is a super fun, nerdy blog! Here are a few posts I’ve had the pleasure of sharing there.)
  4. It’s important to make time for what makes me happy and whole. A couple of weeks ago, I stayed up reading until 4 AM, something I hadn’t done in years. It actually felt amazing. I need books to read like I need air to breathe; I need to journal and clear my head often. And I need to make that a priority, not a luxury. Rest should be a gift, not something I have to earn by doing enough work.
  5. Speaking of books, we can no longer say Harper Lee published only one! In a bizarre twist of fate, the novel she wrote before To Kill a Mockingbird is being released at last this summer. Decades later, the public will have something of a sequel to the beloved American classic… The beloved classic I have yet to read. Since To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic, I kind of felt there was no rush. Now that the buzz is all about the sequel, Go Set a Watchman, I probably need to get a move on!
  6. Bookworms share a common problem: There are so many reasons to buy books! It’s impossibly hard not to give in to all of them! Dratted budgets. Thank you all for the brilliant response to my last bookish post- I’m so glad to know I’m not alone in my struggle. 😉
  7. Words have such power. In the last month, several people spoke encouragement to me, whether through texting, over Twitter or in person. They may never realize the light those words gave me, but I’ve clung to them. Speak kindly. Lift others. You never know how you’ll inspire them.
  8. Even the best intentions may go awry. I fully intended to have this post finished in time to participate in the link-up on one of my favorite blogs, Chatting at the SkySadly, I missed the deadline. I didn’t want to miss reflecting on January, though, so here it is. And if you’d like to see what other bloggers learned in January, here is the post I was *supposed* to add my link to. 

What did you learn in January? Is there anything you’ll change for February, or do the same? How has this month started off for you?

All the best for February!

Blog Signature

12 Reasons to Buy More Books

Buy Books Graphic 1

I have a bit of a problem. One of my resolutions for this year was to stick to a budget. Instead, I’ve spent the last month binge-buying books. It appears to be a common problem among bookworms. No matter how many we collect, or how stuffed our “to-be-read” shelves become, we. Must. Buy. Books.

I started to feel a little guilty about this, especially when I considered details like lack of space, the number of unread books I already own, the free books awaiting me at the library, and that aggravating little word, “budget.”

book tweet

It’s rather depressing, all the things that could stand in the way of buying books.

So I decided to stop thinking about them, and think instead of all the reasons I SHOULD buy more books. A dozen reasons, to be exact. I have a feeling that I’ll be browsing Amazon again by the end of this list…

  1. Books never go out of style. No matter how trends waver, books stand firm. In a world where technology is outdated in twenty minutes, it’s comforting that books remain constant.
  2. Books are always there for us. No matter what time it is or what’s going on, we can count on our favorite books to be there. Dull lunch break? Book to the rescue! Insomnia? The book is already awake.
  3. Books are low-maintenance. Even if we go a week without reading a single page, we can easily pick up where we left off. It’s never awkward with a book.
  4. Relating to fictional characters can help us relate to real people. I especially find myself comparing individuals to those of Jane Austen’s novels. It’s actually helped me understand situations and personalities better. Books make us journey alongside others, through triumphs and struggles, and I think this makes us more empathetic in reality.
  5. We also learn a great deal about ourselves through reading. So many times I’ll come across a phrase and think, “This is how I feel.” I’ll meet a character and as I get to know her, I discover truths about myself, too.
  6. Books remind us we are not alone. In the same sense of learning about others and ourselves, the common themes in books gently whisper Someone else has been here. You are not going through this life alone. When I read about a character feeling something I cannot explain, or thought no one else could imagine, I take comfort in knowing that I’m normal. If this character can make it, so can I. As C. S. Lewis so wisely explained, “We read to know we are not alone.”
  7. You can share books. Yes, lending them out may cause separation anxiety, but there’s nothing like sharing a favorite with a friend and hearing how much they loved it.
  8. They are excellent conversation starters. I find that when people don’t know what to talk about, they default to talking about other people. This can be a problem, but not when those other people are fictional. Books provide endless opportunities for discussion. I love hearing insights on favorite characters, reactions to plot twists, or predictions for what happens next. I read through the Hunger Games & Divergent series with my best friend, and the Harry Potter books with my brother. The conversations we had about the stories made the experience even better.
  9. Authors are awesome. I’m a bit biased, since my fondest dream is to become a published writer, but it feels good to support storytellers.
  10. Books are a perfect gift. There are so many options, there’s bound to be something for everyone. And if you buy your friend a book, shouldn’t you be able to get one too? (The answer is yes.)
  11. You’re training for a career as a librarian. Honestly, if I don’t get a position in a library soon, I’ll just open my own bookish establishment.
  12. One day, this book will become an antique. You are adding to a collection for future generations.

So there are a dozen reasons to buy more books! I could go on, because I feel very strongly about book shopping. 😉 However, I’ll stop there for now. Amazon is calling to me!

What makes you want to shop for more books? Which titles are currently on your wishlist?

Blog Signature